Sometimes, adversity breeds innovation.
Since the COVID-19 crisis began, many of us have seen stories about the whiskey distillers who shifted gears to start producing hand sanitizer. Or, closer to home, ActivArmor pivoted from producing casts and splints to protective face masks.
The Supporting Pueblo website is another great example of this. Pueblo County Commission Chairman Garrison Ortiz wanted to do something to help local businesses that were hurting as a result of social distancing and stay-at-home orders. So he and a number of other people working with various business and civic organizations came up with the blueprint for Supporting Pueblo, which is supposed to be like a localized version of Amazon.
Visitors can go to the site, supportingpueblo.com, to find information about dozens of local businesses. The site’s directory section lists details about contact information, operating hours and whether delivery or pick-up services are provided.
Participating businesses can be found listed alphabetically in the directory, or by searching on the site’s “categories” page. Like Amazon, there’s a “recommended for you” section, promoting different goods and services that might be of interest to website browsers.
And starting Thursday, shoppers will be able to place orders on site and have items delivered to their homes.
It’s not an entirely new idea. The social media site, Nextdoor.com, offers a local business directory for its members. And don’t forget the telephone book’s yellow pages, which still exist, even if they’re not used as much as they used to be.
But a resource is only helpful if enough people know about it and are willing to use it. This site will be successful if it’s promoted properly and finds a large enough audience to make it worth the trouble and expense to operate.
The potential is certainly there. Not only is it a convenient and presumably safer way to shop during the COVID-19 era, it also may raise awareness about products and services people might not realize are available online. For example, some counseling sessions or doctors’ consultations can be done by teleconference.
Ortiz said the goal is for delivery fees to cover the costs associated with running the site. If the fees don’t generate enough money, they might be increased. Or else the county could look at other ways of funding the program.
“We think this is something that can outlive the pandemic,” Ortiz said. “We think this can support businesses now, but in good times as well.”
We agree. The state’s mandatory stay-at-home order expires Sunday. Even so, people still are being urged to use caution and limit their trips outside their homes to only situations where they’re absolutely necessary.
Yet even before the COVID-19 scare began, many people were ordering goods and services online to avoid the hassle of in-person shopping. Whenever life gets back to normal, we can expect that trend to continue. And it makes sense for local merchants to band together to decrease the flow of money to out-of-town online retailers.
The Supporting Pueblo website may have been born during a crisis, but the concept makes sense even during less trying times.