The Shop Local Kirkland initiative is driven to create a vibrant, prosperous and resilient commercial ecosystem for all Kirkland businesses. The core of the initiative is the ShopLocalKirkland.com web portal, a digital main street where businesses can be found, promoted, and connected to customers. The website is a low-barrier and inclusive piece of digital infrastructure that provides a no-cost online presence and promotion and marketing services to any Kirkland-based business. At time of writing, more than 300 local businesses benefit from digital storefronts on the platform.
The Shop Local Kirkland initiative responds to the economic impacts of COVID-19 on Kirkland’s business community and is designed to help local businesses survive and thrive through WA State’s Safe Start Plan and beyond. A hyper-local, digital marketplace, Shop Local Kirkland is a vibrant, prosperous and resilient online economy for all Kirkland businesses. The platform www.ShopLocalKirkland.com houses business storefronts on a digital main street, enables eCommerce, and connects shoppers to local businesses. A vigorous media and incentive marketing program will drive traffic through the portal and dollars into the local economy.
Small businesses are the backbone of the US economy, contributing about 50% of GDP. In Kirkland, 98% of businesses are classified as small businesses with fewer than 50 employees. Since the onset of COVID-19 in March 2020, restrictions imposed by local, state and federal governments have presented severe economic hardship for businesses that depend on in-person customer experiences. Small businesses are particularly vulnerable -- the average small business has only enough cash in reserve to remain open for 27 days (ISLR) and have suffered dramatic declines in revenue. More likely than other sectors to be women and minority owned, the threat to small business flags worrying equity concerns for communities like Kirkland.
Predicted resurgences in COVID-19 infection rates make a linear and progressive path to economic recovery uncertain. A dramatic shift in consumer behavior has resulted from fears about the ongoing threat of coronavirus infection. Even in phased re-opening scenarios, many consumers remain reluctant to shop and transact in person. Seemingly overnight, no-contact commerce has become an essential component of the economy.
Many businesses are unprepared for this shift and are actively trying to prepare. The US Chamber of Commerce reported in July 2020 that the most common preparatory actions ‘include updating their website and/or social media profile, and increasing eCommerce or digital payment options.’ There is an urgent need for small businesses to transform digitally so that they are able to be found and seen online, and to transact with customers remotely.
In the City of Kirkland, about 20% of the businesses licensed have no web presence, while roughly 50% of the remaining businesses do not transact online. Conversely, data show that more than 80% of consumers purchase online, a figure that is expected to continue growing. The Shop Local Kirkland initiative aims to create a model ‘safety net economy’ that assists small businesses to transform digitally to survive and thrive in a digital as well as physical marketplace.
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