Campaign on to encourage holiday shopping at local businesses

·3 min read
Campaign on to encourage holiday shopping at local businesses

As the holiday season accelerates into full swing, local businesses are hoping to avoid ringing in the new year with for-lease signs hanging in store windows by encouraging customers to spend their dollars at the shop around the corner.

While December is normally the time of year when many small businesses are able to switch from breaking even to turning a profit, business groups are warning that this year they're simply trying to survive.

We're asking consumers to really make a conscious choice this year to shop small because the big box stores and the online giants are doing fine. - Laura Jones, executive VP, Canadian Federation of Independent Business

"Without a doubt, they are worried," said Nathalie Carrier, executive director of the Vanier BIA.

"There is stress. Nobody's looking at a bright Christmas. Everybody's just hoping to get through and to have a business when the vaccine arrives."

Andrew Lee/CBC
Andrew Lee/CBC

1 in 7 businesses expected to close

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) has launched its Small Business Saturday campaign, which is running this weekend Black Friday and Cyber Monday to encourage people to shop local.

"It's a time of year when sometimes consumers can default almost automatically without thinking about it to big box stores and online giants like Amazon," said Laura Jones CFIB's executive vice-president. "And we're asking consumers to really make a conscious choice this year to shop small because the big box stores and the online giants are doing fine."

The places in trouble are the small, street-front shops that may not survive without a brisk holiday season.

"It's your local retailer, your local restaurant, your local independent business that is struggling and having a really tough time," said Jones. "If we don't support them today, they won't be with us tomorrow."

The organization estimates one in seven independent businesses across Canada are at risk of shuttering their doors because of the pandemic.

Many of those businesses aren't brand new ones, but those that have been around for decades, even generations, she said.

"It's still very, very tough times. I mean, 2020 has been a year that we're hearing from our Ottawa members has been more difficult for many of them than any other year they've ever experienced in business."

Francis Ferland/CBC
Francis Ferland/CBC

Beyond holidays also a worry

Even small businesses who expect to make it through the holiday season are worried about what January will bring.

"Christmas will be fine — sales are always good at Christmas for me," said Molly van der Schee, who owns the niche gift and card shop, The Village Quire. "My real concern is come January and February when it's already slow in the store and on top of it I can't get product into the store."

What she's worried about is making ends meet early next year, especially as overseas supply problems have meant dwindling stock.

Even now, van der Schee is low on some stock, though she said her customers have been understanding.

"My customers are very forgiving. They want to see me succeed. They want to see the store succeed."