Saskatoon man develops online mall to support local retailers

·2 min read

Last-minute shopper Michael LePage was inspired to develop an online shopping mall after his procrastination left him empty-handed leading up to his fiancée's birthday.

LePage co-founded Local House, a virtual mall that allows shoppers to purchase goods from local businesses in Regina and Saskatoon and have them delivered the same day or next day. It went live on Dec. 1.

"For us, we can deliver faster than Amazon," LePage said.

LePage came up with the idea for Local House last April when he didn't have a gift for his fiancée's birthday and most stores were closed to in-person shopping during pandemic lockdowns. With not much time to spare and the desire to support local businesses, LePage hatched a plan to buy gifts virtually in Saskatoon and have them delivered to his fiancée throughout the day.

"It was a very tedious process," LePage said.

Each store had a different way to sell their product virtually. Some FaceTimed with him to select gifts. Others set up Zoom calls and other stores sent product pictures through text messages.

"If there was a Skip the Dishes for local retail this would have been a more seamless process," LePage said, referring to the food ordering app.

With that in mind, he set about creating a virtual shopping mall for Regina and Saskatoon retailers where customers can browse through local stores, make purchases and have their items delivered that same day.

Kait Waugh, owner of Fat Plant Farm in Regina, is one of about 30 retailers on the e-commerce site.

I think this will help us compete with some of the larger retailers out there. - Kait Waugh

She said Local House gives customers an easy way to find and support their local businesses.

"I think this will help us compete with some of the larger retailers out there," she said.

Waugh said the pandemic has also created a desire to support local independent retailers.

For LePage, the online shopping mall drives more customers to businesses than a store's standalone website would.

"They're getting a ton of exposure on our site."

LePage had 28 different retailers reach out with inquiries about joining Local House during one 24-hour period and is already looking to expand the business into other Saskatchewan towns and cities.

"Out-of-town merchants are very, very excited about this project," LePage said, adding Local House is about a month away from expanding into smaller Saskatchewan centres.