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Open sign at businessWhen COVID started oh so long ago, we suggested these 7 things you could do to support local businesses. While we are glad to see some things getting back to pre-COVID status, many businesses are still facing challenges, whether it be from inflation, staff turnover, or adjusting to current demands. We know that the current economy is affecting all of us, so let us show our solidarity with local businesses by supporting them when possible, and by understanding that behind the scenes, they are still adjusting to many effects from COVID. 

The supply chain issues continue. Certain products may be unavailable, or look different from before, and local businesses are often scrambling to keep their required supplies stocked. This can be frustrating for consumers and is also frustrating for businesses – they are doing the best they can to offer their products or services in these challenging times. 

Price increases are coming or are already here. Most supplies have gone up in price, some by double, triple the cost, or more. For many businesses, raising prices is the only way to avoid operating at a loss. Minimum wages have gone up recently; moreover, many employers are increasing wages to retain valued employees in a competitive market. Payroll often represents the most significant cost for a business. Paying staff fairly is a vital component of a sustainable economy; when we feel sticker shock, let’s remember just how much the price of a good or service represents the cost of the people integral to providing it.  

Growing pains: Maintaining staffing through the ups and downs of COVID has been incredibly challenging for businesses. Many employees were laid off or decided to move on during the worst of the pandemic, and as businesses have begun to ramp back up to pre-COVID levels, the local labor market has been competitive with a lot of turnover. Training new staff is costly to a business, and it takes time to get fresh staff up to speed. As businesses may be understaffed or in the process of training, there could be times when they struggle to meet customer demands. Understanding these background issues can give us empathy when we may have to wait longer for service or encounter a less experienced employee.  

Masking and COVID policies. In the absence of state mandated mask or proof of vaccine requirements, businesses can determine their own policies, and these will differ across the area. There are various reasons a business may choose to continue requiring masks or proof of vaccination, and it is their right as a private business to do so. Thank you for following individual business guidelines and showing respect for employees who are required to enforce them. 

In sum, businesses are doing their best to provide consistent products and services in a very inconsistent environment. Many of these issues are invisible and may not be apparent when we see a business full of customers and everything feels “back to normal.”  Let’s have empathy for these challenges and continue to support our amazing local businesses as much as we are able! 

– Molly Bressers, Sustainable Connections Business Engagement Specialist

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