Online directories appear in a bid to boost small business sales amid COVID-19


TORONTO – When Ali Haberstroh brought home a full-length sheepskin coat that she recently found at a vintage store, the Toronto woman couldn’t help but talk about it.

TORONTO – When Ali Haberstroh brought home a full-length sheepskin coat that she recently found at a vintage store, the Toronto woman couldn’t help but talk about it.

“This is the most fabulous item I have ever bought for myself and if it had been anywhere else it would have cost a billion dollars,” she said of buying $ 38 made at Expo Vintage.

Haberstroh wanted to help his friends discover great products and also support small businesses. In her spare time, she created a shareable Google Docs list of independent and local businesses on

Within hours, it spread like wildfire on social media, inspired friends to create versions in Halifax, Calgary and Vancouver, and prompted local tech genius Baker Baha to offer his help with them. turn all of them into a suitable website.

Haberstroh had a lot of company. Directories, Google Docs lists and social media accounts full of links to small businesses in need of help sprang up in most major cities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although they are meant as a small gesture to help in a difficult time, some believe they can have a big impact.

“I’ve seen a lot of people say, ‘I just bought three items from two stores’ on the list,’ Haberstroh said.

“There is now a push to do everything for small businesses and it seems more than ever the responsibility of the city to keep them alive… given what they have been through this year.”

A poll conducted in August by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business found that 82 percent of Canadians fear their favorite local businesses are closing.

This possibility is very real. The CFIB has estimated that 225,000 businesses across the country could shut down permanently due to COVID-19. Even those who survive could pay off their debts for years to come, the organization warned.

Christie Pinese isn’t quite sure how her Rose City Goods store got on Haberstroh’s list, but she’s grateful because she’s noticed that people shop mostly in their neighborhood or where they can get to without transportation. in common or long drive.

An appearance on a list can expand that radius or help someone nearby find it.

“The more people know about the store, the better,” she said.

She has spent much of the pandemic relying on online sales, but worries about how independent retailers can compete with big box stores that have been allowed to stay open in and near Toronto. Peel region while small vendors who do not stock essentials must close.

“If we don’t support small businesses, when this is all over, we’re just going to be left with Walmart and Costco and I don’t think anyone wants that,” Pinese said.

Amy Robinson has similar concerns.

She created the BC Small Business Support Group and the LoCo Directory about 10 years ago and it is now seeing renewed interest amid COVID-19.

Robinson is seeing more and more people deciding to buy entirely local produce on this holiday or to seek independent store recommendations from friends online.

According to an Ipsos poll commissioned by Google this summer, 66 percent of Canadian consumers will buy more from local small businesses during the holiday season.

“It’s interesting because our message has always been that you have to shop with local businesses, so they survive, and now I feel like people really get it,” Robinson said.

This change was sparked by people seeing a physical manifestation of how our lives and the economy change as they walk along their main street and notice store after store closing, said Joanne McNeish. , professor of marking at Ryerson University.

As people dissociated businesses from warm and fuzzy feelings, the essential work they do has made us more nostalgic and emotional when we think about their demise, she said.

“It’s almost like losing a good friend who you always thought was going to be there, until all of a sudden they weren’t.”

The pandemic has also made the additional challenges some groups face more glaring and difficult to ignore.

Small business owners, for example, had neither the money nor the resources to quickly deploy the marketing campaigns, fancy websites, or delivery offers that big box stores were offering when COVID-19 hit.

Entrepreneurs who are women, Indigenous, racialized, or disabled have faced even more challenges due to chronic underfunding, less mentoring, and more responsibility for raising children.

“People with disabilities often have to get creative or create employment opportunities for themselves because they haven’t necessarily had the same opportunities as the general public,” said Mayaan Ziv, the Toronto-based creator of a Google Doc Sharing Small International Managed Businesses. by people with disabilities.

“People don’t think about this part of the population often enough.”

While people are now eager to use lists and help small businesses like the ones Ziv highlighted, it’s hard to predict whether the trend will survive COVID, McNeish said.

While some may revert to frequenting big box stores if they are the cheapest or most convenient option, McNeish said if people develop small business habits now “then maybe those habits will stick. “.

“But we won’t find out for two years.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in December. 8, 2020.

Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press


Comments are closed.