Small Biz Saturday: Local communities get creative to attract shoppers despite rise in COVID cases

SANFORD, Fla. — Some Central Florida communities came up with creative ways to make sure shoppers participated in Small Business Saturday, despite a recent increase in COVID-19 cases.

The goal was to safely help keep small businesses afloat as they continue to struggle through the pandemic.

READ: Florida reports more than 6,000 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, 81 virus-related deaths

Data from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation shows Florida has 30-percent fewer small businesses open now than at the start of the year.

In Sanford, city leaders organized a late-night small business event running until midnight, with the city allowing open containers downtown for the first time ever.

City of Sanford Mayor Art Woodruff presents the Small Business Saturday Proclamation to small business owners, Christina...

Posted by City of Sanford, FL Government on Thursday, November 19, 2020

Christina Hollerbach of Sanford Main Street says the response was even better than expected.

“All of our merchants are ecstatic,” Hollerbach says. “People have been respectful, wearing masks. We’ve had bouncers at retail locations to ensure that there’s not too many people. It’s been wonderful.”

This is the eleventh year for the shopping “holiday” first started by American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Local business owners like Wendy Leininger of Echoes of Retro say it was needed this year more than ever.

“We signed the lease here in February on a space double the size, and then the pandemic hit,” Leininger says.

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Many stores like Leininger’s haven’t survived, but she says they’ve managed to stay open due to a supportive community, stretching their business skill-set, and preparing for opportunities like Saturday’s.

Sanford officials plan to hold a debriefing following Saturday’s event. If deemed a success, they say it’s something they may try again in the future, both during and after the pandemic.