By Marissa Parra

CHICAGO (CBS) — This is Small Business Saturday, and at the forefront is a reminder that the holiday shopping season ahead is make-or-break for small businesses that are on the brink.

As CBS 2’s Marissa Parra reported, more than 100,000 small businesses around the country have had to close their doors for good since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Outside Heritage Bicycles and Coffee, 2959 N. Lincoln Ave., a sign has gone viral online because it really resonates: “Shop local or risk becoming the suburbs you fled.”

From Bronzeville to Lakeview to Pilsen, it is a full-court press for Small Business Saturday.

“In the holiday season, the fourth quarter of retail is make-or-break,” said Nancy Cummings, executive director of the La Grange Business Association.

And the stakes have never been higher. According to research from Opportunity Insights Economic Tracker, small business in the country is down 32 percent since the year began.

That is why the message this Small Business Saturday was loud and clear.

“It’s very easy for you to be in the comfort of your own home, shopping on Amazon,” said Alex Esparza, executive director of the Pilsen-based Economic Strategies Development Corporation.

“I just want everyone to give it another second, another thought where you’re putting your money into,” said Michael Salvatore of Heritage Bicycles and Coffee.

“If they can shop big-box, then they can shop with us,” said Kenya Renee of Absolutely Anything Essential, 3521 S. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr.

The local shops that have weathered this year’s storm are putting in overtime to stay that way.

“One of the things that we’ve done is to create the La Grange Holiday Wish Book, which is a digital catalogue,” Cummings said. “It’s a flip book that allows you to see the top-selling gifts available in La Grange.”

At Absolutely Anything Essential, they used to focus on just gifts – but their focus has now expanded.

“Since COVID, we had to pivot, so we actually have food now,” Renee said.

That pivot allowed them to become legally “essential” to stay open, and it worked.

Many stores suffering from low foot traffic because of the pandemic are also now offering curbside pickup. But that only works if the locals show up and support them with their holiday spending – even if it’s online.

And again, that aforementioned sign about the city risking “becoming the suburbs you fled,” might just say it all.

“We don’t want closed store fronts on commercial corridor because it doesn’t look nice,” Esparza said.

“It’s not good for us, the more stores we have the more traffic we get – and everyone wins,” said Salvatore.

The National Federation of Independent Business conducted a survey, which showed one in five shops will not survive the next six months if their average weekly revenue stays where it is today.

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