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Holiday sales could make all the difference for small businesses hanging on by a thread

In a tough year for retail and restaurants, local owners are asking shoppers to support them this holiday season.

TAMPA, Fla. — With one shopping weekend left before Christmas, local stores are hoping Tampa Bay residents choose to shop small for their last-minute gifts.

For some, they say these last two weeks of shopping in 2020 are make-or-break for their stores.

“Keeping it local is so important right now more than ever," said Amanda Henderson, the owner of Ashe Couture Boutique. 

You’ve heard it before-- 'shop small' or 'shop local' are two requests made every holiday season. But this year, it’s different.

“We've seen a lot of people shopping with intention and shopping, like, with local in mind. Which is really cool to see," Henderson said.

Retail and restaurant changes through the pandemic have made this year hard. Bella's Bakes, Cakes, and Bagels expanded in 2019, creating a challenge in 2020. 

“Now we have a larger location with all that goes along with that, but less customers less business and we're just, you know, doing the best we can to, you know, be positive and keep going every day," owner Ellen “Bella” Sierra said.

For Sierra and her shop, tomorrow is not promised. When asked how they were doing looking ahead to 2021, "That's a hard question to answer. We're really not sure. We are hopeful. But realistically, I don't know. You know, I mean, we're hoping that we're still here for all of 2021 but we're doing the best we can every day to just come up with new ways and new products."

That's where customers come in.

"When people buy stuff from us right now, I mean, it means so much. And so for them to put money into a local business and keep us here. I mean, it means like, you know, 120 million times what they're buying," said Marina Williams, owner of Artpool Gallery.

While it may be easier to shop online rather than go into a store because of the pandemic, business owners say it's not only possible to shop local, it's vital.

"Amazon does not need your money," Williams said. 

While local businesses are holding on and fighting to stay operational, they're hoping next year will be different.

"We're, you know, positive, that hopefully, 2021 brings more business for everybody," Sierra said.

But for some local businesses, it is too late. According to data from Yelp, 60 percent of the businesses on their platform this year that closed, will never reopen. That means right now, there are 97,966 locations permanently closed businesses.

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