TAMPA, Fla. — With no end to the pandemic in sight Tampa Bay area businesses are calling on the community to help them rebound.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, most local businesses have had to shift their focus to still be able to operate.
“Our restaurants shifted from in-person dining to delivery, we saw local breweries and distilleries shift from production of beverages to hand sanitizer. A local bow tie maker shifted from men’s apparel to masks,” said South Tampa Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Kelly Flannery.
The South Tampa Chamber of Commerce says right now local businesses are focusing on two different types of customers.
“One is the customer who is ready to be out contributing to the economy and they’re comfortable and they feel okay to do that. The second are people who are still are not quite comfortable to be out. They may have a vulnerable family member at home, they may themselves have a compromised immune system or just in general for whatever reason they’re not quite ready to be out as you normally would,” said Flannery.
That’s why you’ll notice many businesses are still utilizing the convenience factor.
“Many of our small businesses here in South Tampa, retailers and local businesses, shifted from in-person shopping to personal shopping, virtual shopping, and curbside deliveries. We wanted to make sure people knew you could still have access to all of these resources and great things that were happening locally,” said Flannery.
The Chamber is encouraging all businesses to continue offering delivery and online orders as well as curbside pick up.
“All the things they were offering during Safer At Home, even if you’ve reopened, continue to offer those products and services in new and innovative ways,” said Flannery.
Business leaders say the best way you can support them is any time you have a product or service you need, ask yourself how and where you can source it locally even if it costs a little more because it’s an investment into the community.
Experts say now more than ever people should shop locally as often as possible.
“These are your friends, your family, your neighbors. These are the people that are right next door to you and these are the same people that are then going to take the money you invest in their business and invest right back into the community. There’s really never been a more important time than right now,” said Flannery.
Experts say it’s important to keep in mind that local non-profits also need help and support during this time.
The South Tampa Chamber of Commerce recently launched its Open For Business Toolkit for any local business to use as a free resource.
It’s all about business recovery and readiness.
If your business is open to the public, the chamber suggests you put up signs on your front doors and windows reminding people to wear masks and social distance.
As you reopen, experts say following safety procedures set by state or local governments is key, as well as shopping local for whatever supplies you need.
“Businesses, if you have put specific protocols in place, make sure you’re communicating very efficiently and effectively. This is the time to be sending that information out to your established customers via email. This is the time to be putting that information on your website very visibly, not hidden three pages back and on your social media," said Flannery. "So that when consumers are making decisions about where they want to shop, they know what to expect when they get there."
Flannery says one way we can continue to move forward as consumers is just respecting that owners have the right to determine what’s going to happen inside of their businesses and how they want to operate during this transitional time.
“We have to do this together, we have to be moving forward in the same direction because if we all keep going in our own way, we’re not going to be moving in one forward motion,” said Flannery.