FARGO — We’ve just celebrated what for many was a subdued Thanksgiving, smaller and more intimate as a precaution against the stealthy coronavirus. Our attention now shifts to one of the most joyful times of the year, the Christmas holiday season.
The Christmas shopping season is crucial for retailers. In a normal year — and this has been far from a normal year — much of the year’s profit is made or lost during the Christmas season.
The pandemic has made this a challenging year for the vast majority of businesses. Early in the pandemic, many businesses were locked down to contain the spread of the virus. The economy contracted, and is haltingly rebuilding.
The landscape already was challenging for brick-and-mortar retailers before the pandemic struck. Online shopping, already well established, has become even more popular, a shift that retail experts believe will become permanent.
In essence, the pandemic has acted as an accelerator, speeding up a trend that otherwise would have taken much longer to play out.
We urge people to stop and think before they click. We should support our local merchants. There’s still no substitute for walking the store aisles, looking at the displays and personally examining an item before purchase.
There are other forms of convenience than shopping online. There’s the convenience of shopping at a local store and being able to find what you need and drive home with it. There’s also the assurance that a local merchant will stand behind their products and do what they can to keep their customers satisfied.
We tend to take those advantages for granted. We assume that the local shops that have been around for years will always be there, ready when we need them.
The same is true for our restaurants, which provide a distinctive local flavor to life. Imagine how dull life would become if they disappeared.
Unfortunately, their survival is no longer assured. For retailers, the structural challenges brought by the shift to online shopping, together with the added headwinds of the slowdown in business activity forced by the pandemic, have combined to place extreme pressure on businesses.
It’s estimated that 100,000 small businesses already have closed during the pandemic. More will be forced to shutter before this public health crisis is over.
We can all do our part. Just as we should remember to wear a mask when out in public, keep a safe distance from others and avoid large gatherings, we should make a point of patronizing our local businesses.
Order carryout from your favorite restaurants. Do your Christmas shopping — and routine shopping — at local stores and shops. We want them to be around when we need them in the future.