- Courtesy of the Church Street Marketplace
- Burlington's Church Street Marketplace
Most people associate the term "Black Friday" with the day after Thanksgiving — the official start of the holiday shopping season and one of retail's biggest days of the year. In fact, it originally referred to a distinctly unprofitable day in 1869, when two U.S. investors drove up the price of gold and caused a stock market crash.
At the risk of causing more confusion, last Friday, November 13, might also merit the moniker — at least in Vermont. It was a dark day when, prompted by a rising number of coronavirus cases, Gov. Phil Scott prohibited all multi-household interaction, essentially canceling Thanksgiving and the year's remaining holidays.
Public health officials insist it's the best way to save lives, keep hospital and health care workers from being overwhelmed, and protect our beleaguered local economy.
But I've heard some people ask: "Why are schools and restaurants still open if I can't walk outside with a friend when we're both wearing masks?"
The point is not whether the potential dangers are equivalent; the governor is asking each of us to make a personal sacrifice for the greater good: functioning schools and operable local businesses — the lifeblood of our communities.
We are minimizing one risk to maximize another.
Seven Days reflects the place we cover — in the stories we write and also in the ads we run, which promote businesses that offer everything from pottery classes to bank loans. When the pandemic hit eight months ago, initiating an almost complete economic shutdown, more than half of those businesses disappeared from our pages.
In the months since, many have clawed their way back. "Vermontrepreneurs" are a creative and resilient bunch. But they are not superhuman.
Local retailers, in particular, need your support. Without it, many of them won't survive. That's why Seven Days moved our annual gift guide up a week and put it on the cover this year.
The economic stimulus of holiday shopping may turn out to be the biggest Vermont business story of 2020: If locals patronize shops in their own community — instead of Amazon — our state might stand a chance. Merchants are bending over backward to safely accommodate customers with virtual trunk parties, curbside pickup and even free local delivery. Burlington's Outdoor Gear Exchange is offering an early "personalized shopping experience" before the store opens for regular business hours.
Many small local businesses are selling online this year, too. Seven Days has curated them on the Register, at shoptheregister.com. Take a break from doomscrolling on your phone and browse the listings.
Earlier this year, politicians asked Vermonters to make a plan to vote. Now we're asking you to make a plan to patronize the retailers in your community this holiday season. To help, we polled readers on their favorite local businesses in our first-ever Gift Local Giveaway. Find their recommendations here, and 70 carefully chosen Green Mountain State items here.
If ever there were a year to buy from Vermont businesses, this is it. And don't wait until Black Friday. The recipients of those gifts won't be the only ones thanking you.