Campaign launched to drum up business for pandemic-battered Manitoba retailers
The Locals providing 'amazing opportunity' for local businesses at Winnipeg's outlet mall
Manitobans are being encouraged to keep more of their spending on gifts within the local economy ahead of the holidays to help support the many local retail businesses battered by the pandemic.
The Manitoba Chambers of Commerce announced a "#BuyLocalMB" campaign Tuesday to make a case for buying local as the holiday season approaches.
"Businesses on more than one occasion have had to close their doors, they've had to lay off staff, they've had to take on increased debt and that's been a huge challenge," said chamber president and CEO Chuck Davidson.
"Pause before you purchase, take a moment to consider local options."
Davidson says 67 local chambers across the province are getting in on the campaign to drive more dollars toward Manitoba business owners.
As incentive, the chamber is holding weekly contests and will award $100 Visa gift cards to people who buy local and post the "#BuyLocalMB" hashtag on social media, as well as tag the business where they made a purchase.
Beyond that incentive, Davidson says, there are other reasons why it makes sense to consider supporting local producers, store owners, restaurateurs, entrepreneurs and artisans: For every $100 spent at local businesses, $68 stays inside the community.
"They boost our economy directly as residents and through taxes, and they employ thousands of Manitobans," he said.
One business that has been employing Winnipeggers since 1977 is Toad Hall Toys Inc. The 5,000-square-foot Exchange District shop is the largest independent toy retailer in the province.
Second-generation owner Kari England says in 44 years the store has tried to provide options for people of all ages that in many cases aren't offered elsewhere in the city.
"We would love to see more people find those treasures in their backyards in their neighbourhood supporting the local economy in a way that keeps the money in our economy, as opposed to it being filtered off to somewhere else," England said.
Khulood Hasnain was perusing social media when she noticed Outlet Collection Winnipeg had opened a local pop-up shop.
The third-year University of Manitoba science student said she would not have gone out of her way to shop local two years ago. On Tuesday, Hasnain and her mom came by the outlet mall to do just that.
"I just like the idea of supporting local right now, especially lots of the small businesses were hardest hit during the pandemic. So I think it's important just as a from a community perspective to support our small businesses," Hasnain said.
The store is run by The Locals and co-owner Nerissa Manzano.
An important lifeline with so many small businesses hurt in the pandemic, The Locals contacted local makers for their thoughts on moving into a facility with the chance to gain greater exposure.
On Nov. 1, The Locals moved into the outlet mall for a two-month lease and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
"It's hard for smaller businesses to have their own space and even marketing is difficult. So we thought, what if we all came together and help each other out and just be a place to gain more exposure together and just be a place where people can grow together," Manzano said.
She called affording the 275 local makers on The Locals' online platform the chance to set up their products at the outlet mall an "amazing opportunity."
Nearly impossible for local businesses to set up in a mall, Manzano's initiative allows local producers to rent a spot in the store, set up their own display, staff it and keep 100 per cent of the profits.
Patti Corso-Dridger, owner of Low Carb Mama, a Winnipeg-based low carb, gluten-free, keto bakery, says she started her business 2 ½ years ago but says it was difficult for her to expand her clientele online. She has been inside the shop for the last two weeks, one of 13 local businesses currently at the outlet mall.
Although it's only a two-month lease, Manzano says many consumers have already asked whether they will be staying open into 2022.
"I feel like it empowers the local makers, you know, like they can do this. They can do something that a big box store can do and have the same exposure and have people love it.
"Customers love it," Manzano said. "Like they come in here and they know that their money is going back to the community. Like it's such a big thing," Manzano said.
Davidson says there's a chain reaction to supporting local business, many of which continue to face staffing issues in the retail space.
"It's easy to simply go online book everything through Amazon," he said. "Think about those small businesses and the challenges that they've dealt with, and at the same time explore a bit."
With files by Marina von Stackelberg