Amid COVID-19 pandemic, local businesses hope online sales will help them stave off disastrous year

Black Friday and Small Business Saturday are both known for the big crowds, as people buy gifts for the holidays.

For 2020, however, the ongoing COVID-19 changed all that, and now, more than ever before, local businesses are embracing online shopping.

At the Frances Boutique in Central Phoenix, they don’t know how busy they’ll be on Black Friday, but they know they probably wouldn’t be here by now if they didn’t pivot to online retailing earlier this year.

"I think for a lot of people, it was an experience coming into the store, but because we had to shut down, we had to kick that into high gear," said Kaylee Maddox.

Maddox runs social media for Frances Boutique, and was a big part of that transition.

"It was incredibly hard," said Maddox. "We were working our butts off. There are a lot of components to it that may seem easy, but are a lot of hard work."

Local First Arizona has tried to make it easier for the smaller businesses to get their products online. They launched an online marketplace website recently, with all proceeds going to the local retailers.

"The whole point of the marketplace is to provide an outlet for the businesses that don’t have a strong e-commerce marketplace already," said Thomas Barr with Local First Arizona.

Experts say even after the pandemic, there will be no going back, as e-commerce will overtake in-person shopping.

"Ease of shopping online is ensuring we’re not taking such a huge hit during the holiday season," said Hitendra Chaturvedi, a professor with Arizona State University's W.P Carey School of Business.

“With the year that we’ve had, the year that everyone’s had...every purchase goes toward helping someone survive when you’re supporting a small business”

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