Be strong. Don’t relax now. We can win this.

The next 60 days are a significant time for our retail community.

This retail holiday season is already well underway. The pandemic reshaped consumers’ shopping habits in favor of online shopping and product research. More time at home in front of the computer has meant earlier and extended shopping for the holidays. Cyber Monday is now Cyber Week.

The average consumer is forecast to spend about the same as last year, so all sizes of local and national retailers are competing to secure holiday purchases.

The National Retail Federation’s Annual 2020 Holiday Survey says 60% of consumers plan to purchase holiday items online this year. Another 44% plan to buy online and pick up in store.

The survey also shows consumers could be convinced to start shopping early this year to avoid crowds or the stress of last minute shopping.

Kudos to the small retailers who reopened following the COVID-19 shutdowns, overcoming challenges needed to move forward — trying everything from curbside pick up to improving online offerings while negotiating numerous new rules.

I know it was frustrating. Business owners did their best to connect with customers — staying flexible to figure out what works and what doesn’t work. All the while, large retailers — grocery chains and big box stores — were able to stay open from the beginning.

The challenge now for small retailers is to bring holiday shoppers home — to your website and to your store.

Accenture’s Annual Holiday shopping Survey of US Shoppers indicates that consumers “want retailers to be authentic to their brand purpose and demonstrate sensitivity and care towards employees and communities.”

Chambers, business associations and local media have resources to help small retailers. You need to use all of it to generate energy and excitement around your holiday offerings.

You also have the support of the community. Local consumers want reasons to “shop local” and support local small businesses.

It’s an important time to ensure your marketing message is loud, clear and repeated to your potential customers. Most local media already have “buy local” campaigns and directories in place. Participate in these programs. Continue to invest in your business.

Dust off your marketing plans. Get back to basics and do what you do best.

And then tell everyone about it!