As COVID-19 restrictions ease, Downtown London launches comeback plan

Downtown London businesses have taken a beating during COVID-19 restrictions but the organization that represents them is hoping a campaign and contest will help lure the shoppers back.

Campaign aimed at getting shoppers back downtown as COVID-19 restrictions ease

The plan includes a campaign called, "Hit our bricks, small is the new mall" as an incentive to draw people downtown. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

After a long, cold lonely spring with almost no ability to serve customers in person, Downtown London is planning a comeback to help its members. 

This week, the organization that represents downtown merchants is launching a contest and a campaign to let Londoners know which businesses have been able to reopen or partially reopen as the first stage of easing COVID-19 restrictions begins. 

Businesses with street-level entrances are allowed to open to the public with precautions in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus. 

Some businesses aren't yet ready to open, and others are open, but with significant changes to their business model. 

Downtown London has published a list of London businesses that have opened their doors, and categorized them based on the kind of service they're offering (curbside service, private appointment, delivery). 

To encourage shoppers to return, Downtown London has also launched a contest where people can win $500 in "downtown dollars" when they submit a photo of any purchase made in London's core. A winner will be announced every Friday for eight weeks. 

There's also a new campaign called, "Hit our bricks, small is the new mall" as an incentive to draw people downtown. 

The executive director for Downtown London, Barbara Maly, said getting shoppers back downtown — while practicing safe physical distancing — will be key to helping merchants who are struggling after weeks of lost income. 

"We just want to remind everyone how unique downtown is, with a lot of unique shops and a personalized experience for shopping," said Maly. 

"COVID has taken a hard hit on our downtown businesses, both retail and restaurants, and we've been doing what we can to support them."

Barbara Maly, the executive director for Downtown London, wants shoppers to know many businesses in the core are open, and to call ahead for store hours. (Submitted by Downtown London)

Maly said the restrictions have forced many London businesses to get innovative and find new ways to serve customers without meeting them face-to-face.

"They have been able to improvise for a period of time, but many of them that are now able to open on the retail side, this has been a long-awaited opportunity for them," she said.

Also, Maly said she wants to get the message out that many downtown businesses are open, even if they appear closed from the outside. 

"If you have a favourite retail business or restaurant, I would encourage you to call them because you may find that they're indeed open," she said.