MACON, Ga. — This past holiday shopping season was unlike any other in recent times, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Two different small businesses in Macon were able to adapt and end the year in the black.
"You really can't compare 2020 to anything else," said Carol Kaplan, owner of Carol's Linens in north Macon.
Scott Mitchell owns Travis Jean Emporium in downtown Macon.
"Our entire experience has changed here. We'll never probably go back to the way it was before," Mitchell said.
COVID-19 hit the holiday shopping season hard. Forbes is reporting that on Black Friday, what is considered as the beginning of the retail holiday season, sales were off to a slow start, down by 5% this year. Cyber Monday fared no better -- it was down 9%.
"There wasn't a lot of browsing, which is usually... people would spend an hour sometimes in here, but this holiday season, 5 minutes," Mitchell said.
To get customers to spend their money safely, businesses had to make some changes.
"We've expanded our services, we open early for private shopping, we have curbside shopping and virtual," said Kaplan.
Mitchell said, "I built an online store. We had a lot of people that requested curbside pickup. I had private appointments; I would come in early before the store open and meet people."
These changes combined with community support made the cost of COVID-19 not as high as it could have been.
"I would not be in business today if it wouldn't have been for the love of this community. I mean, people really rallied behind me -- not just me -- rally behind downtown," said Mitchell.
Kaplan said, "We have been blown away by the number of customers that have told us in the past eight weeks they wanted to shop local, they wanted to shop small, and they wanted to shop support the local community, and for that, we're just forever grateful."
Both shop owners say that small businesses in Macon need your support all year round, not just during the holiday, so be sure to check with some of your favorite local retailers to find how they're ensuring a safe shopping experience.
After months of shelter-in-place mandates, COVID-19 also changed what people were shopping for most over the holiday.
Forbes reports that technology, furniture, and sporting goods all received a spike in sales this year.