Shopping Local Matters to Keep Thunder Bay Economy Rolling

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THUNDER BAY – The message is simple, small local businesses are at risk. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on many businesses. Not only have some small locally owned businesses closed, but even some large national chains have closed.

Some of this is likely a result of online shopping as consumers continue to look online for the products they need.

In Thunder Bay, a recent NetNewsLedger “Question of the Day” on Facebook saw readers listing out the many small companies that they say are stepping up and offering superior customer experiences since the pandemic. Companies like Maltese Grocery, Bay Village Coffee, and many other small local companies were mentioned.

A good example of a local company providing excellent curbside, instore shopping, and ordering is Music World Academy in Thunder Bay. They have a well-designed website, a solid listing of the products they have for sale, and they offer solid answers to your questions. Those are all key to success in the increasingly changing global and local marketplace.

From their building on Simpson Street to the world, the company is set for success online.

Choosing a path forward to success means doing things differently. Bay Village Coffee on Bay Street has implemented ‘Gary-Hop’ service, you pull up, and Gary Mack or one of his very engaging staff will take your order, and bring it out to you. The company doesn’t have a drive-through like the national chains, but they more than makeup for it with their innovative approach to business.

There are many similar success stories, showing how local businesses can make it during the pandemic and beyond.

However it is not all sunshine for every business, the latest survey reports that four in five Canadians are worried their favourite local businesses may close down as a result of the pandemic, according to new public opinion research conducted by Maru/Matchbox for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB)’s Small Business Recovery Dashboard.

The poll found:

  • 82 percent of Canadians are worried that their favourite local businesses will close down
  • 69 percent are concerned the economy is not recovering fast enough
  • 76 percent believe we need to start focusing more on economic recovery
  • 95 percent believe supporting small business is key to keeping our economy healthy

“We are in a pivotal moment for small business recovery. Canadians’ concern that some of their favourite businesses may close is not misplaced—CFIB’s research shows that Canada may lose 158,000 small businesses before the end of the pandemic, particularly as many continue to face dramatically lower sales,” said CFIB president Dan Kelly.

The latest bi-weekly data from CFIB’s Small Business Recovery Dashboard shows:

  • 63 percent of small businesses are fully open
  • 39 percent are fully staffed
  • 26 percent are making normal sales

“Back in June, we saw that Canadians were starting to be more comfortable with eating at dine-in restaurants and going to their barbers or stylists for a haircut. Now, Canadians are realizing that a slow economic recovery will hurt their favourite local businesses and community as a whole,” said Kyle Davies, Senior Vice President at Maru/Matchbox.

There are steps companies can take to ensure their survival in the increasingly online world.

First getting digital. There are government programs available right now to take your company online.

Second, keep in mind that you are competing in what now is really a global market. Amazon, and Ebay are seeing major sales gains. Right now in the market for digital products for videography or photography, it is a matter of stock, speed of shipping, along with customer service.

Think of Thunder Bay’s past in photography, back in the day there were many local companies selling photographic products, now the marketplace has only a few stores. They are competing against national and global giants, like Vistek, Henry’s Camera, and B&H Photo in New York.

The challenges are there, but with creative and online solutions there is certainly a place for the local companies to thrive.

The CFIB is encouraging Canadians to get involved in helping small businesses survive by shopping at their local, independent businesses. At smallbusinesseveryday.ca, consumers can participate in interesting challenges to support local businesses, and find information about other initiatives aimed at small business recovery. One of those initiatives is American Express’s Shop Small® campaign, which is encouraging Cardmembers to shop at small businesses by offering a $5 credit when they spend at least $10 with their registered Card, at up to 10 different participating businesses until September 13¹.

“There’s a reason we all have a favourite independent coffee shop, gym, or flower shop—they give us terrific service, grow local economies, and make our communities more vibrant and unique,” added Kelly. “Buying local is one of the most important things Canadians can do to help our economy recover quickly.”