With the past year and a half causing financial losses for many local and small businesses due the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Calgary is continuing its effort to push support for Calgary-rooted establishments.
After the World Health Organization declared a pandemic in mid-March of last year and the world started to shut down, the City of Calgary created a business sector task force designed to give communities and businesses the chance to tell the city exactly what they need help with.
Erin Chrusch, acting leader for the business and local economy team at the City, says it is important for local and small businesses to get aid because of what they mean to Calgary.
“These businesses, in a lot of ways, are the lifeblood of our community. They employ your friends and neighbours,” says Chrusch. “And it keeps that money here in the city, where it can be reinvested.”
Having to close their doors for a short period at the beginning of the pandemic, Spencer Schmick, owner and operator of Stuff, says the past 18 months brought a lot of uncertainty.
“Overall, I think what was really difficult is there was no buying forecast. Like, you really couldn’t figure out month to month how things were going to go because we didn’t know how the pandemic was going to go. So it was very difficult to kind of plan anything,” says Schmick.
Among the moves the City made to support local, they set up a resources page, giving people and businesses easier access to information like marketing tips and for Calgarians to better understand the benefits of shopping local. They provided tools that enabled small businesses to open online versions of their stores.
They also started a social media campaign to support local businesses, using the hashtag #SupportLocalYYC. The campaign has been the most successful social media campaign the city has ever run, says Chrusch.
Schmick says with people going out again, the store has picked up and it is becoming easier to predict buying habits.
On the other end of the spectrum, Rebecca De Man, general manager of Peacock, a local consignment store with three locations around the city, says she has noticed foot traffic slowing and feels as though the push for supporting local is dying down. She says it hasn’t been easy to get customers back in the store.
“There is definitely not as much talk about it. With restrictions being lifted, a lot of people think that things are back to normal. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that a lot of these small businesses could barely have survived,” says De Man.
Chrusch says there are many ways to support local that don’t cost any money at all, such as writing a good review, sharing on social media and telling others about the positive experiences you have.
“Word of mouth still, you know, is one of the biggest motivators for influencing people where they shop and who they chose to support,” says Chrusch.
As many resume their pre-pandemic lifestyle, Chrusch recognizes that for these local and smaller businesses there is still a long way to go and says the City will continue to support them.
And for local businesses owners and store managers, they want Calgarians to be reminded they are not out of the woods yet.
“We’re still getting back on our feet and things still aren’t quite normal yet,” says De Man.