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Virtual Shopping Becoming the Norm

Brick-and-mortar retail facing challenges to capture share of holiday shoppers’ dollars

By Lou Sorendo

COVID-19 is further fueling the trend toward online holiday shopping, causing an impact that is decimating small business retailers throughout the Central New York region.

Shopping live for the holidays or even in general is becoming even more obsolete as folks take to online shopping as a crisis-plagued 2020 comes to a close.

Robert Simpson, president of CenterState CEO in Syracuse, said across the region, small and locally owned businesses have borne the brunt of the COVID-19 economic crisis.

“These businesses are critical economic drivers that support livelihoods and create a unique sense of place within our communities,” he said. “With this in mind, CenterState CEO and its partners have developed events and programs to drive patronage of small businesses during the busy holiday shopping season.”

The successful virtual Buy Local Bash Marketplace, presented by AmeriCU, provided an opportunity to support local businesses this season.

Shoppers that visit locally owned, independent businesses through the Buy Local Bash Marketplace website gained access to special deals and made further connections to merchants from the community.

The Greater Oswego-Fulton Chamber of Commerce hosted its Small Business Stroll, presented by Novelis, which also encouraged community members to shop, eat and save locally this holiday season.

The Downtown Committee of Syracuse has been supporting small businesses and promoting holiday experiences throughout Downtown Syracuse. You can learn more at

Shop local drive: Nearly half of U.S. consumers are more interested in shopping online this holiday season, forcing storeowners in CNY to develop ways to counter the trend.

“When you shop local, your dollars stay in this community and help us drive a faster recovery from the COVID-19 crisis,” Simpson said. “I encourage the community to think about how they can make a bigger impact by supporting the region’s small and locally owned businesses.

“Businesses for their part have done a tremendous job shifting to online sales and developing programs to drive in-store shopping like offering private shopping hours and discounts.”

In the midst of COVID-19, the role and operation of CenterState CEO has been adjusted as a result of the global pandemic.

Since last spring, CenterState CEO has advocated for additional resources and spending on programs that will complement the region’s economic strategy and support key industries that have been severely disrupted, Simpson noted.

“As the possibility of additional business restrictions and further pandemic challenges arise, our team stands ready to again rapidly deploy their skills and knowledge to track and share resources, information, tools and programming,” Simpson said. “We remain committed to our four-pronged approach to assess, respond, mitigate and recover from this crisis, and to assist your business now and in the weeks and months ahead.

Local chamber perspective: Katie Toomey, executive director of the Greater Oswego-Fulton Chamber of Commerce, said COVID-19 has had a profound impact on local small businesses.

“These businesses are the lifeblood of our community and add the unique character and charm that make Oswego County a great place to live, work and play,” she said. “The owners of these shops and eateries are our friends and neighbors and need our support now more than ever. I encourage the community to not only shop safely this season, but to make sure the dollars they spend stay right here in our community to fuel its resurgence and growth.”

Being that nearly 50% of U.S. consumers are more interested in shopping online this holiday season Toomey and the chamber recently launched the Small Business Stroll, presented by Novelis.

The weeklong program is designed to increase foot traffic to local Oswego County businesses and restaurants during the holiday season.

The GOFCC underwent a large media blitz with segments on television, radio and on social media platforms. Participating businesses provided specials and deals throughout the week. The GOFCC encourages community members to shop, eat and save locally not just this holiday season, but throughout the year.

The mission and vision of the GOFCC has and will remain the same even in the wake of COVID, Toomey noted.

“We will continue to advance the business and community interests of the region through advocacy, member services and community enhancements,” she said.

Toomey said the GOFCC is a fully integrated affiliate of CenterState CEO and through this partnership, it remains a strong chamber, dedicated to the needs of the Oswego-Fulton community while bringing the area prominently into the overall growth and success of the region.