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Small businesses prepare for the holidays amid the pandemic

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A worker decorates the Christmas tree at The Grove outdoor shopping center in Los Angeles on, November 5, 2020.

A worker decorates the Christmas tree at The Grove outdoor shopping center in Los Angeles on, Nov. 5. Valerie Macon/AFP

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The holidays are a critical time for consumer spending — and, of course, for the small businesses that depend on that spending. But those same businesses are dealing with an unprecedented global pandemic, which means plenty of change and uncertainty. “Marketplace” is following three small businesses through the holidays to see how they’re dealing with a changing economy. First, here’s how they’re doing in the week leading up to Black Friday.

Annie Lang Hartman from Compass Paper Co. in Leelanau County, MI

Annie Lang Hartman runs Compass Paper Co., which has been in business for a little over five years now. (Courtesy of Annie Lang Hartman/Compass Paper Co.)

“My name is Annie Lang Hartman. I own Compass Paper Co., which is a stationery and gift brand. And we are based in Leelanau County, Michigan. Compass Paper Co. has been in business for a little over five years now. Around March 15, when things were really starting to shut down, 90% of our spring and summer orders were canceled. And we needed to shift to focusing on our regular everyday customers. We went up 750% in those sales this year, which is a really big deal. But this year, we went in having a plan of adding, you know, six or seven employees and that kind of went out the window. And it’s just everything feels uncertain right now. So any sale that we get just feels good, no matter how big or small.”

Rue Newby from Label By Three in Phoenix, AZ

Rue Newby started founded sustainable clothing company Label By Three with her sisters two years ago. (Courtesy of Rue Newby/Label By Three)

“My name is Rue Newby. My company is Label By Three. Label By Three is a sustainable clothing company that I started with my sisters two years ago. This holiday season, we have scaled back on the stock that we have and the items that we plan to make just to be on the safe side. We’d rather have too little than too much. We’re excited to still be, you know, planning all these things, all the holiday stuff that we typically plan. It is busy, so it’s lots of to-do lists, and ‘Did you get this done? Did you get that done?’ There is a tone of nervousness, but I think we’re trying to just focus on staying positive and just taking it day by day, week by week.”

Irene Kesselman from Ali Cat Toys and Books in Carrboro, NC

An interior of Ali Cat Toys and Books in Carrboro, NC. (Courtesy of Irene Kesselman/Ali Cat Toys and Books)

“My name is Irene Kesselman and I’m the owner of Alli Cat Toys and Books located in Carrboro, North Carolina. We have been in existence for over 30 years. I have owned the store for seven. Today, we are doing whatever we can to capture our business. It is clearly the most critical time of the year. We are offering private shopping appointments. And we are also doing local deliveries where I will literally get in my car and drive to bring the gift to the customer. I usually have my seasonal buying done by, I would say, August. And this year, not knowing what to expect, I leave here and I go home and I look at sales and I write orders at night based on what we sold that day. I’m really depending on my gut this year. I’ve always done well with going by my gut, but this year in particular every day is different.”

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