For the last few years holiday shopping has been less about shopping at local stores, and more about buying from chain stores and large conglomerates. And the pandemic is making the shift to buying online from these companies even more pronounced this year with most of us hesitant to shop in-person but still needing to buy gifts.

But the importance of buying local during the holiday season isn’t lost on the many small businesses that count on those sales to bring their bottom lines into the black each year. With many struggling to stay afloat during COVID, it’s even more important to support local retailers, manufacturers, and producers in 2020.

“Local businesses are the lifeblood of Allentown and all of the Lehigh Valley,” explained Tom Williams, Operations Manager for the City of Allentown Department of Community and Economic Development. “Local businesses mean jobs, opportunity, economic stability, innovation, and more. When you shop local, it’s a very personal experience because you are supporting another local family. Almost every business has a sign outside with the company logo, but I think it should also have a picture of the family behind that local business.”

Buy Local

By now the “buy local” refrain is one you’ve no doubt heard or read numerous times on social media and in ads. But what does that really mean and why is it important? Williams says it all comes down to having a personal impact on the local economy.

“When you shop local, $68 of every $100 spent stays in the local economy, versus $43 when you shop at a national big box chain store. A community that supports local businesses has unique character. Strong local businesses thrive along with their neighborhoods, so they are less dependent on national trends.”

COVID’s impact on local small businesses

Many retailers were forced to close up for several months this spring as the virus took hold. They were able to reopen their doors by June, but in many cases, shoppers have not returned to pre-pandemic levels. Those who were able to do so switched to online sales by either more heavily promoting the retail features on their websites, or by quickly setting up a retail website. Either way, it’s been a long, tough haul for those who have managed to survive.

“City retailers have been hit hard by the restrictions on indoor gatherings and lack of travel going on,” said Williams. “People are mainly staying at home and shopping online from their couch. The personal service aspect of Allentown’s retailers has become less important. Some sectors have had their business dry up completely. For instance formal wear, dry cleaning, and hotels and lodging have a fraction of the business that was available last year. Many city retailers are trying to operate their physical shop while also running an online store. They tell me they are working harder than ever to survive.”

Marketing campaign aims to drive shoppers to stores

To help support the city’s retailers for the holiday season and into 2021, Allentown’s Department of Community and Economic Development has launched a new city-wide campaign entitled: Shop Smart. Shop Safe. Shop Allentown. It’s centered on the website which features a directory of its many retailers, restaurants, arts and cultural sites, relax and recharge options, and family-friendly activities.

When asked what one thing Williams would like to find under his tree or in his stocking this year, he says: “I really hope Santa picks out a cool record for me at Double Decker Records on the Southside!”

Shop Local… Buy Bridgeworks!

While most of the client companies at AEDC’s Bridgeworks Enterprise Center manufacture industrial or business products, there are four of them that produce a consumer product that is perfect to enjoy during the holidays. So we reached out to the four beverage manufacturers to find out what they are promoting this month. Here are their highlights:

Binah Winery

The newest Bridgeworks beverage manufacturers is featuring special pricing on holiday season multipacks through the end of the year. They can be purchased at the winery in-person, or via their online store for shipping, curbside pickup, or local delivery (West End Allentown only).

The Colony Meadery

Linking into the recent chess craze thanks to the Netflix series, the maker of mead has introduced a Queen’s Gambit version made with varietal honey. It can be purchased at both its Bridgeworks tasting room in South Allentown and its Southside Bethlehem tasting room.

Hijinx Brewing

The microbrewery’s Holiday 2020 Barleywine-style Ale made with cranberry and rosemary will perk up the holidays, as will their A-Town Brown Ale, affectionately named for the city. Buy these varieties at the brewery tasting room in Bridgeworks.

County Seat Spirits

In addition to its new Hidden Copper Pure Corn Mash Bourbon, the distillery is encouraging cocktail lovers to whip up their own drinks at home by selling drink kits.

Mixing glass kit is $50 and includes:

  • Logo-etched Yarai 550ml mixing glass
  • Stainless julep strainer
  • 1oz/2oz Japanese-style jigger
  • Mixing spoon

Shaker kit is $40 and includes:

  • 2 Koriko weighted shaking tins in stainless (etched)
  • 1 oz/2 oz Japanese-style jigger
  • Koriko Hawthorne strainer

The bourbon can be purchased at its location inside Bridgeworks, and the kits and bourbon can also be purchased online or at its Easton tasting room in the Simon Silk Mill.