The COVID-19 pandemic has been great for big online shopping companies, with Amazon already touting record holiday sales.
And while Amazon is now sort of a local business—the internet giant, which has data centers in Loudoun, is a member of the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce—shoppers who want to find something special for their loved ones this holiday season and help keep smaller local businesses afloat in the pandemic have lots of options.
“I think during this age of COVID, certainly folks are so much more willing to shop online,” said Loudoun Chamber President and CEO Tony Howard. “We’re asking them, if they feel they want to shop online because that’s how they feel the most comfortable, to still consider the local merchants.”
Nine months into the pandemic, local businesses have adapted to keep their customers coming back. Business owners know that consumer confidence is the key to keep people coming through their doors, so they’re practicing safety protocols to keep their shoppers safe.
Joannie Wolford, the owner of the Savoir Fare catering company in Round Hill, said her team couldn’t cater from March to May, and through most of June. But, she said, she has been able to keep her C’est Bon dinners-to-go operation open all year and is advertising “gourmet gifts” for Christmas.
She said she’s offering those dinners for pick up from 4-7 p.m. Wednesdays to Saturdays and is offering meals featuring lobster dip, beef tenderloin with bleu cheese crackers, brie with jam, dried fruit and nuts and more.
“I know it’s convenient to shop online, but we have got to get folks to buy locally,” Wolford said.
Michael Oaks, the owner of the Re-Love It consignment shop in Purcellville, said he would like to see people support small mom-and-pop businesses, now more than ever.
“Many are just hanging on by a thread,” he said. “The Wal-Marts, Targets, etc. have billions of dollars behind them, we don’t.”
Oaks emphasized the catchphrase, “Shop small businesses, save small businesses.”
Middleburg Councilman Chris Bernard, who worked in the retail industry for five years, said the town is working to help businesses remain open through the winter months, especially restaurants.
“We got to keep the restaurants open,” he said. “From an economic perspective, the restaurants are the lifeblood.”
To do that, the Town Council could vote Dec. 10 to implement a program that would help those dozen restaurants pay for outdoor seating tents to warmly accommodate guests from now until spring.
Bernard said the town also is producing videos encouraging people to keep visiting.
“We’re trying to do some marketing,” he said.
Other organizations have also begun offering at-home shopping from a broad swatch of local businesses. And many of the things you can buy from Loudoun shops, you can’t find anywhere else.
For example, Take Loudoun Home, an initiative from the county’s Department of Economic Development, connects shoppers to local agricultural businesses at LoudounFarms.org, and has as a map to see which businesses are open to visit in-person and when.
Farmers markets across the county are a great way to get some shopping in outdoors, and LoudounGo.com lets people shop for gifts or fresh local groceries from their couches.
Franklin Park Arts Center’s Loudoun County Artisan Gift Box Subscription is a unique gift—a curated, three-box subscription from December through February that connects subscribers to Loudoun artists, musicians and artisans through items like original artwork, pottery, handcrafted soaps and candles, locally sourced food products like honey and tea, books, and music. Information is at FranklinParkArtsCenter.org
The Waterford Foundation, at WaterfordFoundation.org, is hosting an online marketplace for visitors to shop for artisan wares and pick them up at the Waterford Mill.
And there’s still old-fashioned going out shopping. Visit Loudoun President and CEO Beth Erickson said it’s a chance to go out “where you can really connect with people again in a COVID-safe environment.”
“All of our businesses are ensuring you’re safe as you come in and shop,” Erickson said. “But the best part is, our towns are decorated, you’re going to hear music, you’re going to see people from a socially-distant perspective. They’re all going to have special touches.”
She practices what she preaches—she hit 13 stores in one day of Christmas shopping. At some of those shops, she got personalized help finding just the right gift.
“I think that Loudoun is absolutely delivering on holiday spirit and helping to boost everybody’s feelings during his holiday season,” she said.
Reporter Patrick Szabo contributed to this report.