Commerce and Consumption in Post-COVID-19 America

No peace sign
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

As the country’s commercial activity slowly restarts after a COVID-19 pandemic-triggered lockdown, many are calling for a robust patronizing of small, and particularly minority-owned, businesses.

At the same time, events of the past months and more recent weeks are causing consumers to adjust their outlook on life and adopt behaviors that coincide with that adjustment.

Real change appears to be in store for post-pandemic America.

Shelter-in-place orders essentially stripped small businesses of their revenue stream, forcing some to close permanently. Others managed to hold on with loans from federal, state and local government relief programs, but worry about repaying those loans and other accumulated debt if consumer spending remains soft.

Black-owned businesses are among the hardest hit by the pandemic, compounded by systemic racism that leaves them at a commercial disadvantage compared to their white counterparts. According to a National Bureau of Economic Research report, 41 percent of Black-owned businesses closed for good between February and April compared to 17 percent of businesses owned by whites. The report also notes that many businesses owned by Blacks initially did not qualify for government pandemic-relief programs.

Calls to “Buy Black” have intensified with the easing of lockdowns, but also as ongoing protests against racial injustice continue to keep the spotlight on disadvantages that Blacks and their businesses face.

Meanwhile, many workers who suddenly became unemployed as businesses complied with lockdown orders found themselves earning more money than their jobs provided. “Stimulus” checks of $1,200 per taxpayer came in from the federal government in hopes of encouraging spending and stimulating the stalled economy. In addition, states tacked on generous amounts to weekly unemployment benefits. And with no commuting, outside dining, and beauty and clothing expenses, consumers may have a bit more disposable cash than they normally do.

The hope is that consumers will spend more with Black businesses even as they support companies that help to build a more equitable society, innovators, ecologically responsible brands, and companies that respect the rights of their workers and create a wholesome work environment.

More generally, consumers may want to rethink long-held beliefs and practices, given the uncertain state of social, political and economic affairs in the country.

The new reality

As economic activity picks up in our COVID-19 influenced world, consumers may want to start thinking more tactically. The new reality requires a measure of preparedness for sudden economic disruptions. Keep a stock of non-perishable food items that can be stored for months, along with basic medical supplies and camping equipment. Consider items that will help you to survive in your worst Zombie apocalypse scenario. As the saying goes, “it’s better to have and not need than to need and not have.”

Support sustainable; support local

Purchasing items grown or made locally is one of the best ways to stimulate your local economy and keep money circulating in your neighborhood. This can change the wealth dynamic of neighborhoods. Support brands and businesses that break from suppliers that engage in shoddy business practices while educating consumers about the local and global sources of products we buy.

Get your bucket-list items

Between a global pandemic and the current socio-economic climate, it might be time to buy some of those items you’ve always wanted to try. If you find yourself thinking of products sold at a new company, or of finding practical use for items that previously seemed of no importance, act on it. If it makes economic sense, buy that guilty pleasure you shied away from. Your soul and the seller will be grateful.

Attend to mental health and wellness 

Spend more time focusing on you, on your mental health and wellness and that of your family. Buy calming plants, herbs, and other items that make your home and your immediate environment as comfortable as possible. Create that space that helps you to recharge the battery that drives you.

Delve into your more creative and artistic side. Sign up for a course that will teach you a new skill, expand your horizons, enhance your day-to-day reflections, and bring about a more satisfying end to your day. Surround yourself with items that won’t simply collect dust and clutter of your life, but those that will help you to activate your greater self and create the happiness you seek.

Invest

Tracking and trading stocks can be intimidating. Luckily, there has been a surge in the number of apps that break down the market in simple terms. Apps like Stash and RobinHood make it relatively easy to figure out exactly how to invest in securities. . Learn the difference between passive and active income and invest accordingly.