Vermont Businesses Double Down on Digital Presence This Holiday Season

Vermont Businesses Double Down on Digital Presence This Holiday Season

By Amy Spear, Vermont Chamber of Commerce

Every holiday season, restaurateurs, retailers, and other small businesses encourage customers to shop local, with the shopping season formally kicking off with Small Business Saturday. As COVID challenges continue to plague businesses in all areas of operation from employee recruitment to competition for sales against giant online marketers, Vermont’s small business community is getting creative and taking advantage of the digital marketplace.

As the Vice President of Tourism for the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, I’ve witnessed our members doubling down on digital engagement to compete this holiday season for job recruitment, customer retention and engagement, and creative purchasing opportunities. Vermont makers and merchants have embraced an innovative spirit to meet their challenges head on.

Whether it’s maintaining and building relationships with customers or helping shoppers to experience the wonder of Vermont in person, developing a robust online presence is not only convenient and entertaining, but also essential. As Vermont businesses are geared up to launch marketing campaigns with traditional paid ads supporting their local newspapers, radio, and television stations, they have also turned to social media tools to entice customers to buy products or visit their retail locations.

For example, digital innovations boosted Lawson’s Finest Liquids’ ability to build and maintain relationships with its customers. Lawson’s Finest is known for producing high-quality craft brews, like their Sip of Sunshine IPA and unique maple brews. But as they continue to build their brand and reach, they’re using Facebook Live to regularly host conversations with their customers and answer their questions. And they’re promoting their “Tuesday Tunes” and “Open Mic” nights via Facebook Events.

Additionally, at the pandemic onset, they pivoted to online sales through their website and developed a curbside pick-up service to support their retail business which made some customers more comfortable not to have to go into a retail outlet. Lawson’s Finest even used their digital communications channels to launch a brand-new brew – Little Sip IPA – during the pandemic. By using creative promotional giveaways and scavenger hunts they were able to connect directly with fans to encourage them to try their new beers.

As with many specialty food businesses, Lake Champlain Chocolates maintained operations throughout the pandemic, providing consistent employment for their long-time staff as well as continued support of the broader community by using locally sourced ingredients like Vermont honey and maple syrup in their handcrafted products. Lake Champlain Chocolates has been hosting virtual chocolate tastings via Zoom, something that has caught on with corporate groups. They added new digital features to their website to provide a better virtual shopping experience for their customers and are promoting “order online pick up in-store” purchases through local Google pay-per-click campaigns, OTT (over-the-top) advertising through streaming video, paid social media, and local digital advertising like Front Porch Forum.

Deploying marketing tactics over social media to attract new employees has also gained momentum, especially with holiday sales ramping up. There are many holiday season employment opportunities, and Vermont’s employers are turning to LinkedIn, Facebook Jobs, and Indeed to connect with job seekers.

Vermont’s businesses fuel our economy by offering quality goods and services while at the same time providing good-paying jobs. These employers also provide financial benefits that in turn help to create sustainable and engaging communities. Our hope is that this holiday season, and beyond, Vermonters and tourists alike go out of their way to support our local businesses as they are an integral part of our greater community.

While supporting Vermont’s retailers, restaurateurs, and other businesses during the pandemic has been incredibly important, it’s even more vital to support the surviving small businesses now. There are plenty of ways our small businesses offer virtual engagement and shopping, so go find them online. This holiday season, you can support Vermont businesses in person – or right from your home.

Amy Spear

 

Amy Spear, of Killington, is the Vice President of Tourism at the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, whose mission is focused on creating an economic climate conducive to business growth while enhancing Vermont’s quality of life.

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There are a lot of moving pieces affecting the restaurant industry. Here is an assessment with our federal partner, the National Restaurant Association (NRA), of the key issues and what is being done to keep the industry moving forward.

Employee Retention Tax Credit

Watch the NRA’s latest 90 Second Update for an update on the status of the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC). The ERTC was redesigned with input from the NRA and has the potential to be a critical recovery tool for tens of thousands of restaurants. But, as we move closer to the end of the year, many restaurants have yet to see their refund checks from the IRS.

Earlier this month, the NRA wrote the Treasury Department and the IRS with a series of asks to get the ERTC process moving and to protect vulnerable restaurants that will soon owe January tax payments. 

The NRA is meeting with Treasury officials soon and would like to walk in with a petition that demonstrates how important this issue is to the restaurant industry. If you have 30 seconds, please review the petition and add your name

Replenishing the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) remains a top priority. If you haven’t contacted your elected official in Washington, D.C., now is the time to do so.

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The $3.5 trillion “Build Back Better Act” makes important investments in things that will benefit our country and the restaurant industry. But the bill does not replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF), and it raises taxes on small businesses at a time when the restaurant industry truly cannot bear more financial strain. Watch the NRA’s 5-minute explainer video to learn how the tax changes would affect your bottom line.

To compound this, a new NRA survey of the state of the industry highlights the outlook that a recovery from the pandemic could be prolonged well into 2022. The NRA released a letter to congressional leaders sharing the survey and their strong objections to the Build Back Better Act as written. 

Congress must hear from restaurants to ensure RRF receives more funding. Reach out directly to Senator Patrick Leahy and Senator Bernie Sanders and tell your story, or use this form to send a note to Vermont’s Congressional Delegation. Additionally, you can help bolster Vermont Independent Restaurants’ (VTIR) advocacy for the replenishment of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund by signing this petition.

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September was National Food Safety Month with the National Restaurant Association and ServSafe. This year’s theme was Know Safe & Show Safe and programming highlighted cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting standards with five weeks of education.
 
Week 1 – Cleaning vs. Sanitizing vs. Disinfecting: Learn more about what it is, when it needs to be done, and best practices on how it should be done.
 
Week 2 – Cleaning and Sanitizing Equipment: Learn more about best practices and how to create the habit of proper cleaning.
 
Week 3 – Cleaning and Sanitizing Dishes: Learn more about how to clean, dry and store cookware and tableware.
 
Week 4 – Cleaning and Sanitizing Your Operations: Learn more about best practices for cleaning after a guest gets sick.
 
Week 5 – Developing & Implementing a Cleaning Program: Learn more about what elements should you include in your Master Cleaning Plan.
 
Learn more about all of the programming covered during National Food Safety Month here.

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Feel Fall in Vermont

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By Vermont Chamber Vice President of Tourism Amy Spear

Have you ever picked crisp apples fresh from an orchard, been surrounded by bright red and orange mountains, or hiked through a towering corn maze?

In Vermont, you can do all that and more on an ordinary fall day. This year, visitors can enjoy the season in a distinctly Vermont way – with activities and attractions that draw in people from around the globe.

Our state has options everyone will love.

  • Delicious food and drink

After shopping and cider sampling at Cold Hollow Cider Mill in Waterbury, enjoy a meal at Apple Core Luncheonette & Brew, which offers homemade breakfast and lunch seven days a week.

Stop by Citizen Cider’s Tasting Room in Burlington for flagship hard ciders and seasonal limited releases, all made from apples sourced locally. The full food menu has something for everyone, featuring items made with their infamous cider.

  • Stay somewhere serene

The Essex Resort & Spa, a centrally located luxury resort, is the perfect home-base for exploring Vermont in the fall from north to south. End the day at on-site restaurants or spend an afternoon unwinding at the spa.

Or stay at Manchester’s Equinox Golf Resort & Spa. Located in the heart of the Green Mountains, this iconic resort is steeped in history. Surrounded by natural landscapes, this destination is beautiful in every season, but is especially stunning during fall.

  • Get active in fresh air

Featuring one of the best corn mazes in the state, kids and adults of all ages enjoy hiking through the towering corn at Hathaway Farm in Rutland and the challenge of solving a maze.

Shelburne Orchards

Enjoy apple picking and cider donuts while taking in the view of Lake Champlain on Shelburne Orchards’ 60-acre family owned and operated apple orchard.

You can also use our trip planning tool at VermontVacation.com to narrow your search and discover unique accommodations, restaurants, attractions, and recreation.

If you’re traveling, why not visit the most vaccinated state in the country?

Last month, Vermont had the highest vaccination rate in the country. If you’re going to travel this fall, why not come to one of the safest states in the nation?

Vermont has a tradition of welcoming visitors to our state. In the wake of Covid-19, the state continues to offer safe travel guidance to visitors and Vermonters. Before you come, take a few minutes to learn what our state leaders are recommending regarding masking and physical distancing.

Community care is at the heart of Vermont life. When you visit, we know you’ll feel the Vermonter spirit in our safety measures and in every smile and wave.

While you stay, play with us by sharing on social media with hashtags #ThisIsVT and #VermontFall.

We would love to see and share your photos this fall. The Vermont Chamber of Commerce tourism team will share your Instagram posts in our stories from our Visit Vermont account.

We’ll also be creating an album with your photos on our Facebook page.

Every year, Vermont sees more than 13 million visitors to the state.

As you plan your visit, be sure to check your plans carefully by reading updates on lodging and business websites. Due to staffing shortages, their hours of operation and policies may have changed.

We are so excited to welcome you to Vermont.

Amy Spear, of Killington, is the Vice President of Tourism at the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, whose mission is focused on creating an economic climate conducive to business growth while enhancing Vermont’s quality of life.

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The weekly themes include:
  1. Cleaning vs. Sanitizing vs. Disinfecting
  2. Cleaning and Sanitizing Your Equipment
  3. Cleaning and Sanitizing Dishes
  4. Cleaning and Sanitizing Your Operation
  5. Develop and Implement a Cleaning Program
 
Access new free resources focused on cleaning and sanitizing here.

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2 Questions in 2 Minutes – Alcohol To-Go

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Take two minutes to learn about alcohol to-go in Vermont & how it helps our restaurants and businesses.

You can connect with our Vice President of Tourism Amy Spear at aspear@vtchamber.com.

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The Legislature passed the most significant liquor law modernization bill in recent years. H.313 is awaiting Governor Scott’s signature and includes the Vermont Chamber and Vermont Independent Restaurants priority to extend the current pandemic-allowed alcohol to-go provisions until July 2023. While not a cure-all, the off-premises provision as passed will help the industry recoup some lost revenue and provide a service that customers have come to expect. According to a National Restaurant Association survey in 2019, 56% of all adults said they would order drinks with their to-go order from a restaurant, if permitted. Without a doubt, the pandemic has accelerated this trend. By January 2023, a report examining economic and public safety impacts will be submitted to the Legislature.

Other provisions impacting Vermont’s tourism and hospitality industry that made it over the finish line include reduced third-class license fees (from $1,095 to $230) for holders of a manufacturer or rectifier’s license, updates to festival permits which were made in collaboration with the industry, and the elimination of the requirement for 48-hours written notice to be given to the Division of Liquor Control for promotional tastings for licensees and for staff participating in the promotional tasting to be off duty for the rest of the day. Contact Vermont Chamber Vice President of Tourism Amy Spear with questions.

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Walk-in Vaccine Clinics Across Vermont for Hospitality Workers

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Media Contacts:

Maggie Wilson
Vermont Chamber Director of Communications
mwilson@vtchamber.com

Nate Formalarie, Communications Director
Agency of Commerce and Community Development
(802) 522-7323; nate.formalarie@vermont.gov

Vaccine Clinics to be Held Across Vermont for Tourism and Hospitality Workers

“Ensuring Vermont’s hospitality industry is safe and healthy is crucial to our state’s recovery”

Montpelier, VT (May 13, 2021) – In partnership with the Vermont Chamber of Commerce and Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing, the Vermont Department of Health will begin hosting walk-in COVID-19 vaccine clinics for restaurant, hospitality, and tourism workers over the next week.

The initial wave of clinics will take place at seven locations, with each site offering Johnson & Johnson vaccines for tourism and hospitality workers on a walk-in basis. Clinics will be staged at restaurants, lodging properties, ski resorts, and other tourism attractions to bring the vaccine directly to the workers in this sector. 

Vermont was recently ranked first in the nation for its COVID-19 vaccination rate, and more than 628,000 doses have been administered throughout the state. Governor Phil Scott’s Vermont Forward Plan for reopening is dependent upon Vermonters doing their part and getting vaccinated as soon as they can. These upcoming sector-specific vaccine clinics will make accessing the vaccine easier for hospitality workers and help Vermont continue on the path to fully reopen by July 4th.

“The hospitality sector is eager to welcome guests back to our businesses,” said Jed Davis, owner of the Farmhouse Group of restaurants. “Providing ease of access to our industry workers and employees recognizes the important role our teams play in the social and economic recovery of Vermont.”

“Ensuring Vermont’s hospitality industry is safe and healthy is crucial to our state’s recovery,” said Amy Spear, Vermont Chamber Vice President of Tourism. “Employees in the industry maintain a high level of contact with the public and often work hours not conducive to traditional vaccine appointment times. These clinics will make vaccines more accessible to the tourism and hospitality workers who provide welcoming, world-class experiences for Vermonters and visitors alike.”

“As the state looks forward to the next phases of reopening, making sure vaccines are easily available will be key,” said VDTM Commissioner Heather Pelham. “We are all eager to enjoy gathering together at events and meeting up with friends and family at our local restaurants. With this extra support for the tourism industry, we can help make sure everyone stays safe, as we welcome back visitors to the state and work to recover from the economic impacts of COVID-19.”

The first wave of clinics will be in Waterbury, Woodstock, Waitsfield, Windsor, South Burlington, Middlebury, and Warren. To see all dates, times, and locations for these tourism and hospitality worker vaccine clinics, please visit the ACCD Recovery Resource Center.

More than a dozen additional clinics, including in Rutland, Killington, Stowe, and Vergennes, are being planned now and will be added as details are confirmed.  If a tourism or hospitality business would like to host a clinic for industry employees in their area, please contact Amy Spear at aspear@vtchamber.com

About the Vermont Chamber of Commerce

As the largest statewide, private, not-for-profit business organization, the Vermont Chamber of Commerce represents every sector of the state’s business community. Its mission is to create an economic climate conducive to business growth and the preservation of the Vermont quality of life.

About the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing

The Department of Tourism and Marketing promotes Vermont’s travel, recreation, cultural and historic attractions, as well as the state’s goods and services, in coordination with public and private sector partners. The department also works to market to a global audience in a manner consistent with the values and traditions of the state for the economic benefit of all VermontersVermontVacation.com

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Get Cozy, Light a Fire, and Shop Vermont This Holiday Season

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Sun and Ski Inn
Photo by Stowe Beautiful
Vermont’s mountains are covered with snow, wood smoke is rising from chimneys, and holiday lights are brightening towns and cities across our state.
As the holiday spirit fills Vermont this December, we encourage you to shop local for your gifts. Local businesses are struggling because of the public health crisis. Your gift-giving this winter can support Vermont businesses while you buy high-quality and thoughtful presents. The Vermont Chamber of Commerce and Vermont Attractions Association have collected gift ideas for you to consider this winter:
Picture Photo from Danforth Pewter
Gifts Handmade in Vermont A selection from Bennington Potters cookware or dining pieces is the perfect accompaniment to homemade meals. Glassware and decor from Simon Pearce will add subtle shine and sparkle to any home. Give the gift of Christmas with ornaments, nativities, and decorations from Christmas Days. Shop locally sourced and made silk scarves, pottery, and jewelry at Artisans Hand. Find something for everyone on your list at Vermont Country Store, one of Vermont’s most iconic shopping experiences. Get custom sculptures and art from Stone Revival Gallery or shop their handmade collections of fine art and décor. Pewter décor or jewelry from Danforth Pewter make the perfect heirloom gift. Clothing and Accessories Give the ultimate gift of comfort with sleepwear, blankets, or clothing from Vermont Flannel. Shop premium Merino Wool socks from Darn Tough, perfect for outdoor adventures or staying warm at home. Find unique clothing and accessory items for the trendy women in your life at Fat Hat Clothing. The updated basics or luxe loungewear from Commando are perfect for comfortably staying in or going out.

Picture Photo from King Arthur Baking
Food Support restaurants in your neighborhood by purchasing gift cards for your loved ones. Shop King Arthur Baking for the baking mixes and tools every home baker needs. Give the gift of maple with Sugarbush Cheese & Maple Farm’s edible gift boxes, or gift pancake mix, maple products, and berry syrups from Maple Grove Farms. Satisfy your loved one’s sweet tooth with Lake Champlain Chocolates’ specialty chocolates and Christmas truffles, or Snowflake Chocolates’ popcorn, brittles, and chocolate snowflakes. You’re bound to find something for every foodie in your life at Stowe Mercantile, with their selection of handmade fudge, maple products, specialty products, and more. Vermont Ski Staycation Ski resorts are implementing extra health and safety measures so that everyone, from guests to their communities at large, stays healthy. State guidance considers industry best practices, CDC guidance, and state regulations. Ski with peace of mind and enjoy the snow at these Vermont ski areas:
Use Ski Vermont’s 2020 Holiday Gift Guide to plan your Vermont staycation. You can find more Vermont businesses to support using our categorized Vermont Chamber member directory or by browsing through our Stay & Play Directory. Have a happy holiday season and thank you for shopping Vermont.
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