Promoting Local Manchester Businesses During A Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted much of the global economy, leading to historic levels of unemployment and business failures. The pandemic-related economic slowdown has disproportionately impacted small local businesses, as they often have lower margins and less of a financial cushion to withstand prolonged shocks. In order to survive, many small local businesses have had to significantly change their operations in order to comply with public health directives.

A July survey from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce found that 70 percent of small businesses are concerned about financial hardship due to prolonged closures and 58 percent worry about having to permanently close. Concerns about a second wave of COVID-19 remain, with 65 percent of businesses expressing concern about having to close or stay closed in the event of future outbreaks. Given these unprecedented economic headwinds, local businesses need more assistance than ever before.

Figure 1: Job losses from the COVID-19 recession were historically severe compared to previous recessions. (Source: Cornell University)

The Town of Manchester’s economic development team and the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, with support from the Downtown Manchester Special Services District, are partnering on a social media campaign highlighting how local businesses are adapting to pandemic-related disruptions. Like many other communities, the small local business community in Manchester plays an indispensable role not only economically, but culturally. Communities with robust local businesses are more vibrant, interesting, and sustainable. Ensuring they survive and thrive is critically important.

Figure 2: Mirroring similar trends seen nationwide, small businesses in Connecticut have struggled to maintain their operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To that end, The Go! Explore Manchester social media campaign is intended to highlight local businesses adapting to these challenging circumstances while continuing to meet the needs of their clients and customers. Manchester is fortunate to have a multitude of successful small businesses of all kinds across many industries, each with their own unique strengths and challenges. The campaign intends to both focus on businesses navigating these difficult times, and encourage residents to support local business in Manchester.

Tammy Gerhard of Silk City Coffee says the popular downtown gathering spot has made a number of adaptations. “We have sought to bring a little light and normalcy to everyone’s lives again. To do this, we offer a wide variety of options – mobile ordering, curbside pick-up, indoor ordering, and both outdoor and indoor seating with safety precautions in place.”

Adam DeLaura, co-owner of Labrynith Brewing Company said he and his partners appreciate the loyalty shown by their patrons. “The outpouring of support from our friends & neighbors in the community has been essential to keeping us afloat during this pandemic. We’re extremely grateful to be part of such an awesome community.”

Tom Deffenbaugh, owner of Summit Studios says music lessons have helped provide a valuable respite from pandemic-related tedium for both students and their parents. He has installed an in-house audio-visual monitoring system in the studio which allows students in the band class program to play together in the same building while hearing and seeing each play in real-time without the latency issues common with online platforms.

April DiFalco, President of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce says COVID-19 has been an unprecedented challenge for both the Chamber and local businesses. “Like businesses in the Greater Manchester area, the Chamber has had to navigate uncharted waters during COVID. We have taken this time to re-asses and streamline our process to offer even more efficient and effective programs and services for our Members. We are proud of the collaborative efforts between the Town, Downtown and Chamber with the Go! Explore Manchester initiative. Manchester businesses will be afforded opportunities from this collaboration that may not have been possible without, proving we are so much stronger when we work together.”

Gary Anderson, Director of Planning and Economic Development says the promotional effort speaks to the collaborative relationship between the Town and Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce. “Manchester takes pride in our strong partnerships with the Chamber and local business community. This promotional campaign is one way to show our support for local businesses during an extremely challenging time for everyone.”

The Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce plans to expand Go! Explore Manchester into an engaging and interactive campaign with a two pronged approach, focusing first on providing local businesses with centralized support programs that offer tangible metrics regarding local patronage.  The second component will engage sponsors and major corporate supporters to develop an interactive application showcasing the retail, restaurants and services available in the Greater Manchester region. It will include an interactive smart device application that will lead shoppers directly to the goods and services they are looking for, along with special offerings, discounts and sales taking place in real time.

The Town and its partners will continue working together over the coming months to assist the local business community through this difficult period. We thank residents who have supported local businesses and helped keep Manchester an attractive place to own and operate a business. If you have a local business that has significantly altered your operations in response to COVID-19 and would like to be featured in the promotional campaign, please contact Kyle Shiel, Senior Planner at kshiel@manchesterct.gov

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