The Importance of Shopping Small During The Pandemic


“Shop Small!” This slogan has no doubt become more noticeable scrolling on Instagram, on the news, or even walking around town. It has been brought to light by the COVID-19 pandemic that has forced an increasing number of small businesses to close for varying periods of time, reduce capacity, and limit operating hours. Without steady revenue, some have even been forced to close permanently. A SCORE (network helping to grow small businesses) survey has shown that only 34% of small businesses claim to be profitable this year, down from 55% last year. These impacts are even more evident in minority-owned small businesses: Only 29.2% of Hispanic-owned businesses and 26.5% of Black-owned businesses are profitable. 

Located in Tolland, The Red and White is a small business that has felt the demanding pressures of COVID-19. Established in 2015, The Red and White is famous for its penny candy counter but it is also a venue for local artists. It currently sells locally made products, such as wood carvings, knitted items, jewelry, and pantry items. Interestingly, The Red and White has witnessed a two-part effect from the pandemic. In the early months, like many other businesses, The Red and White was forced to shut down. With no one allowed in the store, months passed by without their staff being able to work. They tried to adapt by promoting online shopping, holding private shopping days in which customers made appointments, and even making holiday cheer boxes filled with snacks and candies customized to each holiday. Lately, however, The Red and White has seen an increase in business. Holiday shopping has led people to The Red and White because many shoppers feel it is safer, knowing there will be only two or three other people in the store when they come in. Despite their efforts, The Red and White has had a drop in sales for the year. 

Recognizing these hard times, the state has tried to aid small businesses, like the Red and White. They have launched the CT Cares Small Business Grant program with $50 million in funding from the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD). Those that receive it are given a one-time $5,000 grant to be used for rent, mortgage, utilities, inventory, etc. The state hoped that 10,000 small businesses and nonprofits across CT would receive the grant. Unfortunately, when The Red and White tried to apply, the program had already been shut down after receiving too many applications. The Red and White wish the state had broken down the loans into different categories (e.g, retail, restaurants, etc.) rather than opening them up to all small businesses at once. “There’s just so many small businesses the state just can’t keep up with it,” co-owner of The Red and White Sheri Sullivan said. Governor Ned Lamont recognized this issue and addressed it. “However, there is only so much that we have available for this program,” Governor Lamont said, “and I urge Congress to reach a deal and adopt a much-needed relief package that will help give our economy a boost and speed up the recovery.”

Those that were not able to receive the recent grant, like The Red and White, are in need of help more than ever. If you are looking for a specific item, instead of mindlessly turning to your favorite brand store, check to see if local retailers offer the same thing. When you are ordering takeout from a restaurant, try curbside pick up instead of delivery sites. Often, delivery programs like Uber Eats and Grubhub charge restaurants fees. You can also help spread the word about some of your favorite small businesses by liking their posts on social media, writing reviews, and tagging them in your posts. Many small businesses are even hosting socially distanced community events to promote business – your attendance can help bring in more customers. Lastly, if you are able, making a generous tip can go a long way. 

If you’re looking for a place to start, there are many small businesses locally in West Hartford. A few examples are The Claypen, Cricket Press, SockStarz, Daswani, Connecticut Custom Clothing Company, Kimberly Boutique and Gift, SPoT Coffee, and Hope and Stetson. If people want their favorite hometown stores to be around for years to come, then they have to do their part in supporting them. So, if The Red and White can leave you with only one message it is, of course, to shop small!