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Holiday shopping tips from a small business owner in 2020

Written by Heather Higgins Yunger – owner of Top Shelf Cookies

2020 has been….exhausting

But one awesome thing about this past year is the awareness of the importance of supporting our small businesses.  These businesses are owned and operated by our neighbors and often employ many residents from the neighborhood.  Target and Amazon are doing well and will survive this pandemic – but our small businesses, shops and restaurants are struggling. With the holidays upon us, they can use support and most of all, your patience. 

I know Covid fatigue is settling in and it’s understandable – I’m over it too.  Many of us are working 2-3 times harder and not bringing in the nearly the same amount of revenue as previous years.  We’re navigating uncharted waters. What happens if I get COVID? What if one of our staff gets COVID? Each week, we brace ourselves for more mandates issued by the city and state.  Personally, I haven’t slept more than three hours in a row since March.

So, with all this in mind, let’s take a deep breath. Here are helpful tips for shopping small this holiday season.

Supplies are going to be limited, order early or preorder.  In my case, we are working out of a shared space and we are going to be at capacity very soon.  I hate it.  I hate disappointing customers more than I hate leaving money on the table.  For most small business owners, it’s in our blood to accommodate you as best we can.

Shipping is slower for all carriers.  First, when you see anyone who delivers packages, send them an air five or give them a thumbs up – they need it.  In our case, we have been shipping 20 times the volume we normally would be since March.  If we are doing that, imagine what all our carriers are dealing with. We use USPS, because we believe in the Post Office and you know what? The delivery rate overall has been pretty awesome.  Delivery may take an extra day or two but it doesn’t mean the system is broken.  It just means everyone is doing the best they can.

We’re not Amazon Prime.  We don’t have giant warehouses with drones and a fleet of drivers.  Trust me, I get it – as soon as I see a tracking number, I want instant gratification too.  A lot of our businesses are still navigating new online ordering and pick up systems still – so try to understand what a change this is for us.  We’ve been online for five years, but we even had to adjust to the volume

Be patient. It FEELS like the holiday will be ruined if you can’t get the exact item you want on the exact day you want it, but it won’t. Yelling at the business will not make your holiday better.  It just makes everything worse. Again, please practice patience.

Help your neighborhood! Buying a locally made gift from a small business is a great way to make a direct impact in your neighborhood and it’s way more unique and special.  So explore the businesses in your neighborhood.  In our case, we get lots of orders to send our cookies to former Bostonians all over the country.  You can match a thoughtful gift to everyone on your list, all while supporting a small business.  It’s a win/win and it means so much to us! (I probably get teary eyed at least once a week when I get kind notes of support and I know I’m not alone.)

Happy Holidays and thank you for shopping local!  

Heather Higgins Yunger is the owner of Top Shelf Cookies, living and loving the Dorchester life with her senior beagle Brady. She has a passion for small business and food, and small food businesses.

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