Support Local

To say that small businesses are important to our local economy is a vast understatement. In BC, small businesses, those with less than 50 employees, make up 98% of all businesses in the province and generate over 33% of our gross domestic product, higher than any other province in Canada.

But more importantly, small local businesses are an integral part of our communities. They provide jobs to our neighbours, places for us to celebrate milestones, gather with friends, stay fit, help us look our best and give us that shot of caffeine in the morning when we need it.

Small business owners are some of the most resilient and resourceful people in our communities. They innovate, accommodate and adapt to remain relevant in an ever changing world dominated by big box stores, large chains and on-line shopping. Their entrepreneurial spirit drives them forward despite incredibly tight margins that make turning a profit challenging at the best of times. Then Covid 19 happened.

Many small businesses where social distancing was simply not possible were forced to close outright. Nail salons, barber shops, hair salons, gyms, physiotherapy and massage services and other personal services businesses all closed overnight. For others, like restaurants and coffee shops, it meant reinventing themselves on a dime to survive until restrictions are lifted. Small local retailers that could remain open suddenly found themselves competing with retail giants as their customer base stayed home en masse and shopped online.

While the government acted swiftly with much needed financial relief, the reality is that many of our favorite establishments will not survive without our help. By supporting local small businesses at this time we are not only helping them financially to weather this storm, we are sending them a positive message that they are a valued part of our community.

How can you help?

Since you cannot dine in at your favorite restaurant right now, consider ordering takeout on a regular basis. Many restaurants that did not offer takeout or delivery before have adapted to include one or both of these options to generate at least some income and keep at least part of their staff employed. A National Takeout Day was even declared to boost the hospitality industry by encouraging takeout each Wednesday. If you are not sure if your favorite spot is offering these services, check out their website. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Whenever possible you should order direct from the restaurant itself by calling them or ordering on their website. Using 3rd party delivery or pick up apps like doordash, foodora, uber eats and others actually reduces the income to the business, and depending on their margins could actually result in them losing money on your order. In addition, some wait staff have switched to delivery in order to keep themselves employed until inside dining can resume, so by ordering direct you may be helping them keep their jobs.

Two birds, one stone. Some generous REALTORS® at our Stilhavn offices, as well as at other local brokerages, have generously donated lunches from local restaurants to our front line workers, providing a boost to local business and at the same time thanking those most at risk. Consider something similar if you have the means to do so, perhaps providing much needed non-perishable goods from local stores in support of neighborhood food banks experiencing higher than normal demand.

Consider buying your groceries at small locally owned stores as much as possible. Safeway, Walmart, Costco, and Save on Foods will all come out of this just fine. But if you enjoy your local butcher, bakery, cheese shop, green grocer and fish monger consider buying all of those staples from these locally owned stores rather than the big chains - even if the cost is sometimes a bit more.

Where possible, purchase wine and beer from local brewers and specialty wine shops that often have unique wines at or below the government stores, which will do just fine during the pandemic. Many of them are offering pick up and delivery services during this time, so check what your local shops are offering before going to your local BC Liquor Store.

The retail and service sector have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic. Like restaurants, many retail businesses that did not deliver before are offering delivery services now to make shopping with them easier. Check out your local hardware, garden supply and other local retailers to see if they offer delivery.

Think about buying presents now rather than later, like birthday and Christmas gifts, that you will need to buy anyway. Do so at locally owned retailers, restaurants and personal service providers that may still be open with restricted hours and social distancing. Even those establishments currently closed to the public may be offering on line ordering direct from their websites. Purchasing services now to use later from hair and nail salons for example, or buying gift cards now from your favorite shop or restaurant to give as gifts later can make all the difference to these small businesses.

Trying to stay fit when every night feels like a Friday night? Many fitness studios and gyms are offering on-line training and classes to help you reach your goals, either as part of your continuing monthly fees or as separate stand alone paid sessions. See what your local fitness studio is offering. Win-win.

The local arts community is also suffering at this time. With public gatherings of any size being discouraged and large ones prohibited, local theaters, galleries, symphonies and opera companies are essentially shut down. If they are not for profit organizations you may be able to help by requesting that your refund be turned into a donation in exchange for a tax receipt.

Long established landmarks are not immune to the effects of Covid 19. The Vancouver Aquarium faces permanent closure and is in dire need of help. The animals still need to be cared for and fed regardless of attendance and ticket sales. In an inspiring show of community support, the Vancouver Whitecaps have joined forces with the aquarium to sell designer facemasks with the profits going towards keeping the Vancouver institution open for generations to come. Click HERE if you would like to order one of their designs and support the Vancouver Aquarium.

Finally, check out Operation Support Local, which has teamed up with local TV and radio stations to provide a list of locally owned vendors in your area. Just Google “Operation Support Local” followed by your location.

Local businesses are at the heart of every community and right now they desperately need our help. If we value them and want them to be here when this pandemic ends, we need to do everything we can to support them right now.