There are a ton of benefits to shopping locally at any time, but especially during the current COVID-19 crisis. Helping B.C. recover from COVID-19 could be as simple as browsing BC Marketplace to see if they have what you need instead of going straight to large online retailers, or taking a stroll down your local Main Street to see what’s new. You can be sure that every single local business owner, and all of their employees, will appreciate your support.

Obviously, the shopping experience is a bit different during the “new normal,” and a little preparation can go a long way. Here’s a quick guide to shopping locally and responsibly during the pandemic.

Stay home if you feel unwell

The first thing to do before going out shopping, or anywhere, during the pandemic, is to consider how you are feeling. If you feel ill or have any of the symptoms of COVID-19, the best course of action is to delay your shopping trip and take a self-assessment. Of course, even if you can’t go out you can still shop locally online.

Check what’s open and when

Before heading out with a shopping bag and list, it’s worth confirming the opening hours of the businesses you plan to visit, as these may have changed. If a business has no website, you can search for them in a local business directory, such as BC Marketplace, or on Google. Google lets you see up-to-date opening days and hours in the search results, and even displays data on when local stores, restaurants, and other businesses are the most or least busy to help you plan your trip.

If you’re planning to travel outside your local community, Destination BC can help you see what’s open in B.C. in advance.

Plan the best time to go

Maintaining physical distancing is an important part of moving around during COVID-19. Try to plan your trip for less busy times when possible, by using Google data or another service. Howbsy is a crowd-sourced platform that lets you search for your town or city and see how long grocery, bank, and other line-ups are in real-time. If you plan to visit a few stores, but have limited time, a tool like this can help you plan your trip out in advance or change plans while out and about.

Protect yourself and others

These days, we all have a responsibility to do what we can to prevent the spread of COVID-19. One of the main ways to do that is to try to maintain a distance of at least 2m (six feet) between you and other people. Many of the safety protocols put in place by businesses focus on helping customers keep their distance. Consider also keeping a “COVID-19 Safety Kit” handy for shopping trips. This should ideally include a face mask or two (reusable cloth or single-use) for you and any family members and a small bottle of alcohol-based (minimum 70 percent alcohol) hand sanitizer to clean your hands. You might also want to consider carrying some alcohol-based wipes or a spray bottle to disinfect any surfaces before touching them, for example if you plan to sit in a coffee shop for a while or rent a car through a car-sharing service.

In general, face masks are recommended in situations where physical distancing is difficult or impossible. COVID-19 is spread through droplets when someone near you coughs, sneezes, or even talks or sings. Masks help minimize the spread between people who may not even know they have COVID-19.

Know what to expect

Another part of your pre-shopping research should be to know the safety protocols of the businesses you plan to visit and any services you plan to use. For example, if you plan to take public transport, face masks are compulsory on BC Transit services across the province. Many businesses also ask customers to wear face masks, including personal services such as hair salons and physiotherapists, as well as some stores and other businesses. All businesses in B.C. must create a COVID-19 Safety Plan to protect staff and customers. This plan details their safety protocols. Check business websites for details or give them a call to confirm what to expect. Here’s an example of the safety measures one children’s book store has put in place.

Feel good about shopping local 

Everyone, including your local businesses, are doing the best they can to navigate the current crisis. While you may encounter line-ups and frustrations, and shopping may not be the relaxing experience it used to be, a little patience and empathy goes a long way. As does the odd tip if you can afford one. The important thing to keep in mind is that by supporting local businesses you are supporting not only them and their families, but your community and the province as a whole.

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