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JONES: Supporting Canadian small businesses is critical

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By Laura Jones

Published by Toronto Sun on June 24, 2020.

COVID-19 walloped Main Streets across the country. As the shutters start coming off and reopening signs emerge, small businesses need you more than ever. When asked what message to put on a poster encouraging local shopping, one business owner said: “We survive with your support.” Another put it more bluntly: “buy local or bye local.” Others had variations on this theme: “Amazon doesn’t live here.”

Ideas like these from small business owners across Canada helped create the newly launched #SmallBusinessEveryDay campaign which will run from now through the fall. Collectively, individual actions like buying a cup of coffee or a cupcake, finding a local business online or ordering takeout can make a big difference to our neighbourhoods, and more generally, to Canada’s economic recovery.

While the Amazons and Walmarts of the world are doing just fine, odds are your favourite restauranteur, retailer, hairdresser, dry-cleaner, tailor, or dress shop owner are not. Close to half of businesses saw revenue drops of over 70% and many had no revenue at all for more than two months during the COVID crisis. Many are still shut.

“Overwhelming stress” continues to rank high on a long list of worries on our weekly COVID-19 business surveys. This week’s survey shows two-thirds are losing sleep over their business’ futures.

As customers, we see the new cleaning protocols and the friendly smiles welcoming us back. But behind the smiles, we know things are very far from normal for our favourite businesses.

According to new survey data from Maru/Matchbox, close to half of Canadians personally know of a business in their community that has closed permanently due to COVID-19.

One of the bright spots for many business owners through this crisis had been their connection with customers, many of whom continued to show support as best they could with options like takeout and curbside delivery.

As businesses reopen, amplifying this support to keep them open is critical. Small businesses don’t exist to decorate our communities, they need sales to survive.

Another emerging bright spot is the parade of initiatives and incentives offered by big businesses, associations, and enterprising individuals across Canada to encourage local shopping.

To make it easy for consumers to see all the great floats in this parade, we are featuring them on the Small Business Every Day landing page (smallbusinesseveryday.ca). Business owners will also find free downloadable posters and other tools to encourage local shopping.

Most Canadians want to do more to support local businesses. It’s as simple as going for a walk to buy yourself a treat, ordering takeout or recommending a great business by word of mouth or online using #SmallBusinessEveryDay and any of the other great campaign hashtags.

It’s not complicated, but it is critical. Small businesses provide over half of the private sector jobs in Canada, support kids sports teams and make our neighbourhoods fun destinations. Will you help them survive and thrive?