Coronavirus crisis calls for Small Business Saturday 2.0 in March -- Here's how it would work

Pretty much everyone can think of at least one small business that has a special impact on their lives

Every year on the day after Black Friday and two days after Thanksgiving, Americans make a concerted effort to patronize small businesses in their local area on Small Business Saturday.

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With the coronavirus pandemic jeopardizing the livelihoods of small businesses everywhere, including restaurants, cafes, bars, and so many others we need to have an extra Small Business Saturday this year, and I hope President Trump will call for this special occasion soon to support small businesses beyond the emergency support he is already delivering to them.

Over the next two to four weeks — and possibly longer — small businesses will continue to contend with depressed sales, especially now that states are beginning to issue orders for bars and restaurants to temporarily close.

The last Small Business Saturday took place just before the coronavirus emerged in Wuhan, China. Small businesses can’t afford to wait for the next one to roll around eight months from now.

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As my friend Bernie Marcus, Home Depot co-founder and I recently pointed out, the federal government’s proactive measures to protect small businesses and their workers from the economic impact of coronavirus prevention by covering the costs of paid sick leave will be a huge help to struggling business owners and their employees.

Similarly, the Trump administration’s decision to provide hundreds of billions of dollars in low-interest loans to small businesses will also help many entrepreneurs weather this storm.

Unfortunately, there's not much the government can do to make up for lost sales — even low-interest loans, after all, will eventually have to be repaid, and in the meantime rent, utilities, and other normal operating expenses will continue to come due. By the time shoppers return to the stores, it may already be too late for some business owners to recover.

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Pretty much everyone can think of at least one small business that has a special impact on their lives. Perhaps it's a local hair salon, or a bakery, or a specialty grocer. If there's a locally-owned bar or restaurant that you particularly enjoy, absent assistance, there’s a very real chance that they'll never again sling your favorite suds or grill up that entree based on the secret family recipe passed down through generations.

I'm sure most Americans would love to do something to help their neighbors get through these trying times, but many of us are at a loss as to what we can do. Patronizing a local business is hardly worth taking a chance with the health of our families.

Well, it may encourage you to know that there is something we can do to protect the most economically vulnerable among us while we work to protect the most medically vulnerable — something that could make a real difference for that family-owned restaurant down the street. It's a simple act that could have far-reaching benefits: buy gift certificates.

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We’re not talking about an act of charity here — those gift cards would be redeemable for the goods or services we normally purchase from those businesses, and since millions of us are putting some of those purchases on hold at the moment, it shouldn’t be unduly burdensome to set aside some of those savings for future purchases in the form of gift certificates for later use to help ensure that the doors of the businesses that make up the backbone of the U.S. economy end up closing for good.

I’d like to see President Trump proclaim “Small Business Saturday 2.0” on either March 21 or March 28, but we don’t need the federal government’s permission to do what’s right for our friends and neighbors.

If you have the means, I implore you to patronize your local small businesses in a pandemic-friendly way by purchasing gift cards that will help ensure that those businesses are able to get through the coronavirus crisis and continue to serve as pillars of local communities throughout the country for many years to come.

Andy Puzder is currently a Senior Fellow at Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy.  He was chief executive officer of CKE Restaurants for more than 16 years, following a career as an attorney. He was nominated by President Trump to serve as U.S. labor secretary. In 2011, Puzder co-authored "Job Creation: How It Really Works and Why Government Doesn't Understand It." His latest book is "The Capitalist Comeback: The Trump Boom and the Left's Plot to Stop It" (Center Street, April 24, 2018).

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