By Mary Alice Scott
In a typical year, January represents a welcome feeling of quiet, a chance to slow down, and a respite from the busy social events of the holiday season. Usually, it’s a chance to chase a little winter bliss.
Instead, this year, it’s more of the same. End-of-year traditions have been upended and social distancing will remain a necessary safety measure for the foreseeable future.
For most local businesses, January marks the beginning of a months-long slow season. The winter months can be a difficult and unpredictable time to operate a small business in Maine. But in most years, the revenues from months prior to the winter slowdown helped to pay the bills.
We often try to encourage community members to venture out and support local businesses during the slow months. But it’s clear that a) community and customer support is not enough to save every local business and b) it’s not fair to ask them to, especially when many community members have suffered losses themselves. Local businesses need additional support.
Unfortunately, as of the time of writing, it’s not clear whether another Covid relief bill will be signed into law. Even if it is, it won’t be enough.
Once again, Congress is planning a short-term solution for a crisis that may end up being eighteen months long. Local businesses across the country have suffered losses of 30% or more. Meanwhile national chains, big box stores, and online giants have seen unprecedented growth.
So, what now?
Well, some of the businesses who have faced the toughest losses are those who rely on in-person interaction. But many of those businesses have created the opportunity to utilize their services virtually.
For instance, why not try a local yoga studio from the comfort of your own home? Yoga and meditation are probably something we could all use a little more of these days, and this month is the perfect opportunity to try it.
This year, we may not need the month of January to take a break from social gatherings, but we can still use this time to change our cadence from the past few months.
Mary Alice Scott is Portland Buy Local (PBL) Executive Director. The West End News (WEN) and PBL are media partners, and WEN publisher and editor Tony Zeli is PBL president.