Despite being ‘uniquely challenging year,’ 2020 successful for Listowel BIA

·6 min read

LISTOWEL – Despite the ongoing issues associated with COVID-19, it was announced at the annual general meeting of the Listowel Business Improvement Area on April 7 that 2020 a successful year.

In a statement read by BIA Coordinator Lisa Schaefer on behalf of Chair Scott Patterson who was unable to attend the meeting, it was mentioned that the Win this Space contest had to be put on the backburner due to the pandemic but the intention is that once conditions permit, the contest will still happen.

“While the storefronts in our BIA remain relatively filled we still believe it is important that we continue to offer this program and encourage new businesses to take advantage of the training and opportunities that are offered,” Patterson wrote in his statement.

The primary sponsor of the Win this Space contest, Libro Credit Union, continues to be a willing partner.

“2020 was definitely a different year for all the businesses in North Perth and those within the BIA as we continue to cope with the pandemic and the steps taken by provincial and local authorities to keep us all safe,” wrote Paterson. “The BIA has focused our efforts to continue with our normal promotional activities to promote Listowel as an area to shop, dine and discover while actively working to assist our businesses and participate wherever possible to ensure our businesses survive the pandemic and emerge in a viable position.”

He admitted that much of the news in 2020 was not positive, as everyone had to adjust to the ever-changing situation, but he said the year ended with a highlight as the Shop Local Dollars program which was a partnership with the North Perth Chamber of Commerce, was very successful.

“This program is designed to keep more shopping dollars in our area especially during the typically busy holiday shopping season,” he wrote. “This program saw a significantly large increase in the purchase of shop local dollars by our community members and local businesses. These monies in turn will be spent back in our community.”

As the number of public events and activities the BIA normally sponsors were greatly reduced, it had to create new ways to engage the public and support businesses.

“Our banners around the Listowel BIA continue to be a priority as we strive to maintain a beautiful appearance and consistent theme throughout the town,” wrote Patterson. “During 2020 all of these paths were especially daunting and it appears 2021 may not be heading in the direction we had hoped it would…

“The BIA will continue in our goal of promoting Listowel in any way we can to lessen the impacts of the pandemic and support our members.”

Patterson stated that the BIA is well prepared and organized for this year.

“We are hoping for a return to normal sooner rather than later and the continued success of our BIA members,” he said.

North Perth Mayor Todd Kasenberg, who stepped up to chair the BIA meeting, thanked Patterson for the work he has done assuming duties in these difficult times.

“So as was said a few times already, 2020 was a year like no other and unfortunately in continues into 2021,” said Schaefer. “I’d like to say 2020 was a uniquely challenging and busy year for us where we constantly had to pivot and adapt from our plans.”

With so much of what had been planned for 2020 being cancelled or going virtual, Schaefer said most of the BIA focus became COVID-19 supports for businesses.

“That said, on top of supporting our businesses through COVID we managed to run several initiatives and still promote Listowel as a place to safely shop, dine and discover,” she said.

As last summer drew near and the numbers for COVID were good in Huron-Perth, several programs including Shop Local Summer Sale Days and a scavenger hunt with the North Perth library were ran.

Schaefer said that as the year went on the BIA continued with marketing of Listowel as a place to shop and dine, but less focus was placed on marketing the town as a place to discover.

“For the holiday season we had to adapt a bit but were able to keep many of our programs,” she said. “We continued with our decorating contest for both residents and businesses and both were very successful. Our resident contest had three times as many entries as previous years.”

A snowman bench was added near the cenotaph.

“The new bench garnered a lot of selfies and people were sending them to me which was really great to see,” said Schaefer.

During the holidays the BIA increased advertising with ads in the Banner, radio ads, a Home for the Holiday booklet and shared advertisements with the Chamber of Commerce.

“Finally, we worked with the chamber to promote a Shop Local Dollars promotional program which was a huge success – over $140,000 were purchased,” she said. “Considering everything that was going on with COVID we had a great holiday season.”

Some of the supports for local businesses conducted throughout the pandemic were in conjunction with the Municipality of North Perth and the Chamber of Commerce. The initiatives included phone calls with the mayor, promoting businesses on social media, the BIA website and the municipal website.

“One of the big projects we did was partnering with the Kinsmen Club of Listowel to work on a gift card program to support local businesses,” said Schaefer. “Local businesses were welcome to participate… $20,000 in local gift cards were purchased and $12,000 was donated to the local food bank and the BIA helped to draft the program and promote it as well as reached out to businesses to sign up and be a part of it.”

Schaefer said they have put together a marketing plan for 2021 as usual but they understand it might have to adapt.

“This year we developed a new program called Listowel Loves Local,” she said. “Residents were encouraged to shop local.”

Residents were asked to agree to shop at one or more Listowel or surrounding North Perth businesses each week while still committing to COVID safety guidelines. When buying gifts it was encouraged that local options be considered first. The program also asked that people use their digital presence to support local businesses.

“Those who took the pledge, posted testimonials or posted… were entered into a contest to win Shop Local Dollars,” said Schaefer. “We had so much interest that several businesses – Diana Sweets, IDA Pharmacy, Off the Lens (Media) and the Listowel Florist provided additional prizes. The program ran from Feb. 9 to March 10.”

Colin Burrowes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner