Small Business Saturday even more important amidst COVID pandemic

Buffalo, N.Y. (WBEN) - Small Business Saturday is always an important benchmark for local retailers looking to make the best of the bustling holiday shopping season. This year, amidst the COVID pandemic, retailers are emphasizing the importance of participating in the retail event and supporting local businesses in general during this challenging period of business restrictions and closures.

"This year, more than any other year, it's very important to support small businesses," said Buffalo Common Councilman Joel Feroleto as he stood outside the Thin Ice shop on Elmwood Avenue on Black Friday. "We're at a really critical point with the small businesses right now," said Feroleto. "They're going to need to have very strong Decembers."

While many shoppers focus on larger retail outlets on Black Friday, small businesses along Elmwood Avenue and Hertel Avenue in Buffalo rely on those shoppers to turn to local shops and retailers on Small Business Saturday and beyond.

"We've had to get really creative this year," saiid Therese Deutchlander with the Elmwood Village Association and operator of the Thin Ice shop on Elmwood Avenue. While much of the focus is on shopping at the local shops and businesses, Deutschlander says many of the local outlets are also offering online shopping experiences similar to the larger regional and national retailers. "You can shop our websites and buy gift certificates." Many of the small retailers along Elmwood Avenue have websites and are linked from the Elmwood Village Association site as well.

For the moment, retail is allowed to remain open, but the threat exists that another COVID closure could come if New York State designates a portion of the region a red cluster zone. "We've all been preparing for it," said Deutschlander. Deutschlander notes that no shops along Elmwood have been forced to close as a result of the pandemic and they're as prepared as can be, having been through a shutdown already.

"We're doing what we have to do because we have no other choice."