In a difficult 2020, small businesses are hopeful for more upbeat moments in the spotlight.
That spotlight shined on them for Small Business Saturday.
Now in its 11th year, Small Business Saturday is part of the kickoff to the holiday shopping season that emphasizes a shop-local movement for independent retailers. And this year, it has a larger meaning by symbolizing shop owners’ fight to stay open amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Retailers have faced a challenging and costly year of adapting to safety protocols and switching to virtual platforms when storefronts first closed in March due to state shutdown orders.
Adapting through creativity is how Leah Pickering, owner of Kazoodles toy shop, has pushed through the past nine months. She launched a website for online ordering and maintained product visibility through social media channels. “Most of our creativity has really been doubling down on how to keep technology fresh and be right on par doing exactly what is new and available,” Pickering said Saturday, while still taking an old-school approach with phone orders, she added.
“Trying to do the Kazoodles thing — the nice store thing,” she said.
Pickering estimates that around 40 percent of annual business comes from the holidays. Longtime customer Ann Ferguson of Vancouver said she put the brick-and-mortar shop on her Saturday shopping to-do list and purchased multiple holiday gifts for friends and her two college-age children.
“As my kids grew, they were always excited to come here all the time,” Ferguson said, “and I wanted to continue to support them.
“(Saturday) is, ‘What do you get 19- and 21-year-olds that have to fly back to college?’ ”
To prepare for the potential holiday rush, Most Everything Vintage began its annual sale Wednesday to accommodate store capacity limits. New state restrictions limit stores to 25 percent capacity, and patrons can expect to be greeted by hand sanitizer at the door, floor stickers to promote social distancing and store employees monitoring store capacity.
At Not Too Shabby clothing boutique in downtown Vancouver, that limit is 12 — and a quarter — persons at a time inside owner Reshell Douglas’ store.
Douglas celebrated her 20th year in business in August. When Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order made retail stores and other nonessential businesses temporarily close their storefronts, she launched a website for online sales and pushed visibility through social media. Phone consultations, curbside pickup and doorstep delivery became routine, too.
“My 16-year-old got her license,” Douglas said, “so it was a good way for her to learn Google Maps.”
Douglas called 2020 a challenging year for her business, but she is optimistic for the holiday season.
“I’m hoping for just enough,” she said. “To be content, and get through this with everyone else — that’s all that really matters to me.”
Saturday marked Bruce and Yvonne Trakel’s second of back-to-back holiday shopping days at local retailers. They shopped downtown for their three grandchildren, and by early afternoon, estimated that 50 percent of their holiday shopping was complete.
“We haven’t come away empty-handed,” Bruce Trakel said. “They’re (local retailers) always here for us. It’s time we’re here for them. More than ever now.”