2020 was a rough ride, and we're not even out of the woods yet. That being said, we have all learned a lot and become stronger and more resilient in the face of an unprecedented global pandemic. As hard as it's been, few have had it as rough as local businesses who rely on regular footfall and tourists to keep them afloat on thin margins.
We all have those local institutions we couldn't be prouder of. Whether it's the multi-generational corner bakery where you can get your favourite hot, buttery scones or the specialty coffee bar with that perfect roast to get you going in the morning on your way to work.
While the new normal might not make that possible, you can still do your part to help keep them afloat - and to ensure business as usual once we're in the clear.
If you're willing to put in a bit of time and effort, you'll be surprised to find how these local businesses have adapted to make it work during COVID-19.
From banana bread to Dalgona coffee, 2020 was the year of the amateur home chef. Hopefully, you also took this time to teach yourself some new and interesting cooking techniques - with delicious results.
However, even home cooks deserve a break once in a while. Why not take the opportunity to support a local business by conveniently ordering in your favourite chow?
If you find yourself missing your favourite restaurant, deck a table, light some candles, set the scene, and have your food delivered to recreate the experience at home. You can even organise a family or group get-together by ordering from the same place and making a group Zoom call - just like old times.
Or, take a load off if you're waiting for the big game or want to binge a new series and order in your top guilty pleasure for a treat-yourself day. Last but not least, surprise a friend with their favourite coffee or a slice of cake and have it delivered straight to their door.
Even if they aren't on Just Eat or other platforms, some accommodating places may even do home delivery for local regulars.
Yes, we get it. Sometimes you don't want to take any risks and just go for that one item menu you know always hits the spot. It also used to be that you can mostly find chain restaurants or takeaways like McDonald's, KFC, or Nandos on food delivery platforms.
However, with lockdowns coming and going and stretching out indefinitely, you may be surprised to find how many of your local joints have adapted. So, next time you log in to Uber Eats, don't just go for the same-old, same-old. Check out the available restaurants near you!
Just because you're stuck at home, doesn't mean you can't be adventurous! Something new to tickle your taste buds might be just what you need to stave off the cabin fever another day or two.
Even before the pandemic, increasing numbers of local businesses opened up online retail experiences. With less sport during the lockdown, even more, have adapted, selling their unique and handcrafted merch online.
So, if you miss the friendly and familiar service of the bakery down the street, your favourite speciality coffee bar, or an animal-friendly beauty product store - do the next best thing. Find and support them online to ensure the in-store experience is still there once we get back to normal.
Google search has made it easy to find local shops by suggesting nearby business listings when you search. If you know a specific shop's name, you can also search for them on marketplaces like Amazon or social media, like Facebook and Instagram.
With different methods becoming more accessible, you can also find a range of convenient payment methods to buy online securely.
Gift cards are an excellent way for businesses to secure future footfall and cash flow while we're in the current limbo. So, it's no surprise that gift cards are becoming more prevalent, sometimes with amazing deals thrown in!
They are also a great way to "gift" those closest to you, during this time when it might not be so easy to hand over a gift in person. Not only will digital gift cards encourage others to shop locally online and introduce others to a local business, but it's also another contactless payment method.
Gift cards can be found for anything from weekend brunches to romantic sunset cruises to actual consumer products. Plus, if it's from a store, you don't have to scratch your head thinking about what's the perfect gift!
If you have to postpone a get-together or romantic date, gift cards are also a thoughtful way of saying "we'll see each other as soon as this is over."
If 2020 was the home cook's year, it was also the year of the staycation for travel-starved adventurers. If you are restricted to travel within your neighbourhood, city, or town, make the most of it and take some time to explore nearby.
As locals, we all know that we tend to take for granted what's around us, sometimes even tourists see and do more than us!
You might be pleasantly surprised when looking at Airbnb sites to find artsy BnBs or even luxurious glamping locations. Glamping is a remarkably safe way to get out with minimal contact with other residents.
If you really feel the cabin fever setting in, there is no better way to break the spell and get a fresh view of things. You'll also be helping out locals in one of the hardest-hit industries, that rely heavily on tourists.
Of course, the above does depend on the lockdown rules and tier where you are.
It's human nature to be much more likely to complain when we have a bad experience than applaud a good one.
Now is the time to balance the scales and leave a positive review whenever you enjoyed a local business's products or services. Give them a shoutout on your social platforms as well for some much-needed extra exposure and word-of-mouth marketing. Or, give them a thumbs up on their social accounts to drive some engagement.
You don't have to be dishonest or embellish the truth, but give credit where it's due. That being said, if you do happen to have a negative experience, it might be because of factors out of the business' hands, so try to keep this in mind!
Let's be honest; we've probably never had so much free time! So, even if you're watching TV or just lazing around, use that time and do your part by giving a local business some hype.
Aside from pulling out your wallet and supporting local businesses directly, there are many other ways you can help them on a day-to-day basis:
With the community's help, just as the world will eventually overcome COVID-19 and go back to normality, so will businesses. No one is seeking charity, but they need our help to stay in business by trading their unique products and services.
To retain our community spirit and identity, prioritizing our spending to help out those who need it most is essential. Why? Because for many, business is at the heart of the community, a place where we meet, talk, work, fall in love, and of course, spend.