GREEN BAY (NBC26) -- The pandemic continues to be a challenge for many small businesses, but some hope holiday shopping can turn things around.
Jill Muenster, business manager at Furs & Clothing of Distinction, said spending is lower than normal for this time of year. She said business increased in the summer, but went down a bit in October. That's the same time Wisconsin saw large surges in COVID-19 cases.
Despite fewer holiday shoppers, Muenster said they're starting to see an increase in the number of people shopping local. And it all started with Small Business Saturday.
“Small business Saturday was phenomenal. It felt like a party of strangers," Muenster said.
“I had one business say that it was the busiest day they’ve had in a very long time," said Jeff Mirkes, executive director of Downtown Green Bay, Inc. and Olde Main Street, Inc. "Another said that (they) were even with last year. Even knowing that during a pandemic they were even with a good year last year, they were pleased.”
It could be the start of a financial turning point many local stores need heading into the holiday season.
“If we can commit some of our purchases to buying local that will go a long way," Mirkes said.
A partnership between Downtown Green Bay, Inc., Olde Main Street, Inc., On Broadway, Inc., the Military Avenue Business District, the City of Green Bay, and Fox Communities Credit Union helped highlight local businesses for Small Business Saturday and the holidays.
The group created a Shop Small Bingo Card people can fill out through Dec. 19 as an incentive to shop local.
People can also use the ShopHere app to browse through locally owned stores from the comfort of their own home. Users can scroll through different shops and items, pay through the app and pick up products curbside.
“If there’s one thing that we recognize is that there have been some permanent shifts in the way consumers have responded to the market," said Brian Johnson, executive director of On Broadway Inc. "The pandemic, like anything else, has forced businesses to be innovative and responsive to different needs. This is one of the things that the app is designed to do, is can this be a tool that is a permanent response to the pandemic."
Johnson said the app is a long-term goal for community organizations and stores to keep using even after he pandemic.
With one of the most important buying seasons in full swing, Muenster said local stores like hers need the same momentum from Small Business Saturday to continue.
“We need you. If you want to see them in a year from now, you need to be there for them," Muenster said. "We need to all stick together and be each other's support system."
Furs & Clothing of Distinction requires face masks be worn in the store. Muenster said they've increased cleaning of high touch surfaces like door nobs, bathrooms and fitting rooms. Only 25 people are allowed inside at a time.
Muenster said many stores, including Furs & Clothing of Distinction, are offering discounts now through most of December.