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Coronavirus: 7 ways to support small and local businesses amid outbreak

Sarah Young
Getty Images/iStockphoto

As coronavirus, known as Covid-19, continues to spread around the world, health organisations have been urging people to stay at home.

But, while measures such as social distancing and self-isolation are vital in helping to curb the spread of the deadly disease, they also threaten to devastate local businesses.

Last week, Boris Johnson ordered all pubs, restaurants, gyms and other social venues across the country to close their doors for the foreseeable future, leaving many business owners and their employees at risk.

Meanwhile, chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled £330bn of support to help big and small businesses survive the upheaval – equivalent to £5,000 for every person in the country – with a further £20bn available in the form of grants and tax breaks.

In what was hailed as “one of the most comprehensive responses of any government anywhere in the world”, the chancellor also pledged that all shops, pubs, restaurants and other leisure businesses would not have to pay business rates for a year under the new plans.

While the government is doing its part to protect the economy, there are also plenty of ways the people can support their favourite local businesses, whether they are book shops, music venues or coffee houses.

Here are seven ways to help small businesses stay afloat during the coronavirus crisis.

Shop locally – both on and offline

Many small businesses that do not typically offer online ordering are starting to test the waters, so check to see if this is something the places you frequently shop with are doing.

The need to social distance has seen a number of retailers alter their services to fit the temporary ‘new normal’, with independent brewers supplying beers to your front door and book shops offering contact-free delivery.

The same can be said for food and household staples. If you are not displaying any symptoms of the coronavirus, pay a visit to your corner shop or grocers where you are more likely to pick up the things larger supermarkets are running out of while simultaneously supporting your local community.

Buy gift cards

Buying a gift card from a local business and saving it to use in the future is an immediate way to put cash into your favourite shop, salon, theatre or restaurant while also limiting interactions and non-essential services such as packing, shipping and delivery, which may require a person to go to work or come into contact with others unnecessarily.

It is also a great way to show business owners how much you appreciate their work and a gesture of customer loyalty in uncertain times.

Order takeaway food and drink

While many local restaurants have opted to close their doors completely, a number are still open for takeaway and delivery, including spots that did not provide that service before the outbreak.

If you have the income, consider taking a night off from cooking every now and then to help support local cafes, bars and restaurants through the coming months.

Many independently owned food and drink businesses are now getting on to delivery platforms like Uber Eats and Deliveroo, but if you cannot see your favourite outlet listed, give them a call to see if they will consider delivering a meal or selling the ingredients to make something yourself.

It is worth noting that some third-party apps can charge local restaurants fees that put an added squeeze on finances, so if you can order directly, do.

As an extra precaution, always try to pay by card online or over the phone and if you’re unwell or elderly, ask for contact-free delivery, which involves the delivery person leaving the food on your doorstep.

Tip more than usual

If you do decide to order takeaway goods from a local restaurant or bar, consider being a little more generous than usual if your income allows.

The extra funds, no matter how small, will help not only the business but also their staff who are still required to work, including delivery people who often work through contractors and therefore have unpredictable wages and few benefits.

It is also best to tip over the phone or online directly through the restaurant, to prevent the risk of germs spreading.

Leave good reviews

If you are financially unable to support a local business, there are plenty of other ways you can help such as following them on social media and leaving great reviews online.

With many restaurants and bars being forced to shut their doors, reaching out with positive words of encouragement through Twitter, Instagram, Tripadvisor or directly through e-mail, or phone call is likely to give business owners the strength to persevere.

Avoid refunds and postpone instead of cancelling

While you may have the consumer right to ask for a full refund following the cancellation of an event, one way to support a local business during the coronavirus outbreak is to see what other options they can offer.

To prevent being left out of pocket, many music and theatre venues are giving customers the opportunity to put their ticket price towards a different event at a later date when the crisis is over. Alternatively, if this is something a local business is unable to provide, you could consider offering the price of your ticket as a donation.

The same can be said for independent vendors too. If you had a booking with a local photographer, caterer or florist for an upcoming party or wedding, consider postponing the booking instead of cancelling it altogether.

Take part in online classes

From yoga workouts and dance classes to creative writing and singing, there are many classes you can opt to take part in online, so if a local business offers this option, take it.

With facilities having to temporarily close, many business owners are now streaming sessions online so that people who are social distancing or self-isolating can join from home and show their support and solidarity to the local community.

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