How to support local businesses in tough times

Smaller businesses and artists are struggling more than most in these trying times. Fortunately, there are many ways to help.

A lot of local shops are moving their business online. Image credit: primo-piano/iStock
Many local shops are moving their business online. Image credit: primo-piano/iStock

In the wake of COVID-19, small businesses and artists are being hit hard. Whether it’s an independent local record store, a family-run neighborhood cafe or your favorite up-and-coming band, the economic impact of quarantine is tough. With no gigs to book, no customers to serve, and public spaces closing down, there are large numbers of people with genuine concerns over their futures. 

One thing that has become increasingly obvious as we spend time in isolation is that the output of artists and small business owners has a massive impact on our day-to-day lives. Fortunately, in this time of uncertainty, there are ways you can help out those in need.

Businesses with ingenuity

Smaller, locally-owned businesses are vital to their communities. Despite a closed storefront, many of these businesses are still operating and with a little digging into their social media you could find delivery or pick-up services on offer. Don’t forget to be generous with a tip, particularly if your income has not been too badly affected by the lockdown.

Websites such as LocalHarvest identify which local farms you can help sustain during these trying times, with many businesses concocting ingenious strategies to allow you to support them. FarmshopUK gives you a comprehensive list of local farms you can support for those in the UK.

Ordering locally is a sustainable way to support businesses. Image credit: Xsandra/iStock
Ordering locally is a sustainable way to support businesses. Image credit: Xsandra/iStock

Buying gift cards or store credit, even if you have no specific plans to make use of them at the moment, is a great way to inject much-needed income into a struggling business. You can also buy them as gifts for friends or family, solving two problems at once. Don’t forget to subscribe to online classes that you would normally attend in person, to help to out your local yoga or fitness coach.

Helping your favorite restaurants

Don’t stop ordering online from your favorite restaurant if they are still making deliveries, but make sure you order directly from their website if possible. If they don’t deliver themselves, food delivery services such as  Deliveroo, offer contactless deliveries,. In these circumstances, you can still leave a tip online for your delivery driver.

Don’t forget the intangibles — if you’re feeling the economic pinch yourself and don’t have much to spare, you can still go online and leave five-star reviews, encouraging others to send business their way. Many restaurants and cafes live and die by their online ratings, so a five-minute review can be far more helpful than you could imagine, particularly in difficult times. 

Jump online and support your favorite local stores. Image credit: MStudioImages/iStock
Jump online and support your favorite local stores. Image credit: MStudioImages/iStock

Many restaurants and cafes are offering their patrons the opportunity to buy their own DIY food packages, with instructions from the chefs on the best way to prepare them. In New York, one of the most affected cities in the world, restaurants are offering nutritious, pre-packed meals that you can assemble and cook at home. Samwon Garden, one of the most famous Korean restaurants in the city, offers a $150 care package with enough meat and vegetables (not to mention complimentary hand sanitizer) to feed five people – provided you grill and cook the food yourself. 

It’s not just restaurant and bar owners who are trying to get through this tough time. If you live in the U.S., you might want to show your support for your local restaurant workers by donating to Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation, which has managed to raise more than $3 million so far.

Assisting your favorite artists

With a global lockdown of public spaces, gigs are finished for the foreseeable future. Whether taking place in a national sports stadium or the grimey cellar of that music bar at the end of your street, seeing your favorite musicians perform live is no longer an option. While the wealthiest stars and glitterati will be able to weather the storm, for many smaller musicians this represents their primary source of income.

Bandcamp was one of the first music platforms to recognize the economic impact on the artists it represents. The platform has decided to forgo its typical 15 percent fee for downloads as a way to help artists to earn a little more. The platform, which prides itself on allowing younger, less well known artists to flourish, was not alone in recognizing the need for assistance. As CEO of Bandcamp Ethan Diamond put it, “For many artists, a single day of boosted sales can mean the difference between being able to pay rent or not.”

Experience your favorite artists live in your kitchen

It’s worth checking out the social media of your favorite band or musician, or consulting this Billboard list and this Consequence of Sound list for upcoming performances. Livestreaming performances has helped create some intimate moments with artists we are more used to seeing walking a red carpet or on stage. A great example is Neil Young’s Fireside Sessions, filmed in his home by his wife and occasionally interrupted by his dogs. The livestreaming phenomenon also gives you an opportunity to see an artist you maybe wouldn’t have had the chance to otherwise. 

Indeed, streaming live performances isn’t even limited to musicians. The National Theatre in Great Britain is livestreaming performances of some of the most famous works of fiction in English every Thursday evening, as part of its #NationalTheatreAtHome launch. Stage actors are not renowned for being the best remunerated of their craft, so the opportunity to contribute directly to them while also enjoying some phenomenal performances from your home is not to be sniffed at.

For those who enjoy a bit of techno, UnitedWeStream has emerged to enable patrons to financially support the thousands of people involved in the industry — from DJs to bar staff. Every evening, from a rooftop in central Berlin (weather permitting), the city’s artists stream performances live to their homebound fans. By contributing 10, 20, or 30 euros a month (the amount that would be spent on entrance fees alone), you can help keep the heads afloat of those who help keep weekends interesting. For those in the UK, consult the UK site to stay up-to-date.