The final months of each year are incredibly important to Anna Meyer, the owner of Range Free, a specialty bakery and café in downtown Columbia.
Meyer estimates upward of 20% of her yearly revenue comes during the winter holidays.
The pandemic and subsequent stay-at-home order cost Meyer more than a quarter of her earnings this spring. Like many other small businesses throughout the city, she moved her business online to adapt.
Online orders are keeping the bakery afloat, but as Small Business Saturday approaches there is fear about how Range Free will fare during the most fruitful stretch of the year, Meyer said.
Range Free is relying on Thanksgiving pre-orders and will have a leftover theme for Small Business Saturday.
“November and December are our biggest revenue months,” Meyer said. “I’m really concerned and am watching the numbers come in to make sure that we get to a place that is feasible to get us through the slow months of January and February.”
Matt McCormick, president of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, knows that Meyer’s concerns over the next few months — especially with the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Boone County and the University of Missouri discouraging students to return to Columbia after Thanksgiving break — have placed a number of local business owners in a familiar position.
McCormick hopes the community keeps this question in mind on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday: Can I get this in Columbia and support a small business?
“You can still shop local, even if you’re not comfortable going into the local stores,” McCormick said.
McCormick expects larger online sales for businesses this Saturday. The pivot that many businesses made to establish a larger online presence or marketplace at the beginning of the pandemic was initiated by Nickie Davis, the director of outreach for the Downtown Community Improvement District.
It was awesome to watch local businesses come together and share their expertise to help establish their online presence before the city’s shutdown in March, Davis said. Those actions were extremely helpful in saving businesses in the spring but will also pay dividends during the holiday season.
Davis and McCormick expect less foot traffic in local shops this year for a variety of reasons, including increased online sales, social distancing rules and prolonged sales. Businesses have made a concerted effort to release sales throughout November to avoid large crowds this weekend.
“The Black Friday and Small Business Saturday crowds people kind of live for that stuff sometimes, but that is not something we want this year,” Davis said. “Our businesses are not at full capacity; they can’t handle it and with (social) distancing that is not the direction we need to be taking this holiday season.”
Karen Pummill-Neal, manager of Artlandish Gallery, is counting on an influx of customers over the weekend.
Artlandish, which sells art from local artists, counts on gift giving during the holidays as a major source of income without participating in Black Friday.
“October, November, and part of December were our huge months where w would triple or quadruple our normal monthly average and that’s just not happening,” Pummill-Neal said.
Pummill-Neal started to run art specials through Facebook since the start of the pandemic and with continued contributions from local artist, she expects that will continue from Small Business Saturday through the holidays.
“Hopefully that will do something,” Pummill-Neal said. “But everybody’s struggling. There’s people who can’t go to work. So they’re not going to go out and buy presents or buy anything but necessities … people are trying to stay in their home, and I don’t know that we’re on the top of their list.”
John Evans, the manager for Rock Bottom Comics, says his operation differs from other local businesses. Most retailers have moved online in some capacity, but for collectors, buying comics in person is usually preferred over online selections.
Evans remains committed to Rock Bottom Comics being a socially distanced venue where the community can peruse his collections, he said.
The community came and bought comics in mass days before the city’s shutdown in March, Evans said. Small Business Saturday provides another avenue to buy comics in bulk for the holiday season.
McCormick knows this weekend will look entirely different for businesses throughout Columbia and there may be less customers going from store to store on Saturday, but it hasn’t tampered his expectations of the community’s support.
“We can’t speak loudly enough about how this community has truly stepped up and wrapped their arms around the small businesses, locally located businesses and our locally owned businesses to try to support them,” McCormick said.