Salem businesses offering virtual shopping amid COVID-19 pandemic

Photo by Shawn Nowlin
Corbin’s Confections is one of the Salem businesses that will be participating in the weekly Virtual Hump Day shopping event.

Each Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for the foreseeable future, the City of Salem Economic Development Department, in conjunction with the Salem Downtown Merchants Association, will host a Virtual Shop Day.

Participating venues include: Vintage Vault, Salem Antique Market, R.M. Johnson & Sons Jewelers, Main Street Primitives, Now, Then and Again, Knitting Coup, Corbin’s Confections and Mac & Bob’s.

As President of the Salem Downtown Merchants Association, Jojo Soprano’s duties consist of communicating with merchants about upcoming events and meeting with city officials to discuss potential plans. He credits Melinda Payne, Salem’s Economic Development Director, for helping bring the virtual shopping concept to fruition.

The Salem Downtown Merchants Association, said Payne, consists of business leaders committed to sustaining a dynamic city through events, marketing and economic development. While the group currently is comprised of business leaders within the downtown area, she continued, future plans include opening up the group to all businesses throughout Salem.

“Regardless of your political beliefs, one thing is certain – small businesses are suffering, period. We give the merchants 30 minutes to ‘go live’ on Facebook to talk to potential customers who may not even know they’re open,” Soprano said. “Merchants can display products, promote specials, talk about how the situation has impacted their business and address any changes they may have had to make. Our first week was successful and we plan to host them weekly as long as the merchants feel they are benefiting from them.”

These days, more and more purchases are made online. The Economic Policy Institute has predicted that COVID-19 could potentially eliminate three million jobs from the US economy before the end of summer. Payne understands that times may be tough at the moment, but the community will persevere like it always does.

“The community can tune in and shop. We also hope they will spread the word about the weekly events and even encourage family, friends and colleagues to support Salem businesses,” she said. “We’re hopeful this strategy will prove beneficial and become a tool that remains relevant once the pandemic is over.”

Added Soprano, “We meet monthly to discuss ways to bring potential business to Salem as a whole, rather than focus on individual businesses. We share ideas to help each other, but mainly we’re planning events to take place in Downtown Salem. We had our first Restaurant and Retail Week in February and had planned, with Salem Parks and Rec, the first Salem St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which was unfortunately canceled due to the COVID-19 situation. There is more to come.”

More information about all of the participating businesses can be found on the Salem Downtown Merchants Association Facebook page.

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