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Five ways to support small local businesses this holiday season

by Kayla Empey

With lockdown back in effect in Toronto, small businesses need your help

Shopping locally helps the economy, job creation and keeps businesses alive. (Rosebox/Unsplash)

With Toronto back in lockdown and the holiday season right around the corner, it’s easy to want to order from Amazon or other large companies that dominate the industry for all your gift-giving needs. But let’s not forget about all those small businesses which are the heart of our communities. Many of these shops are struggling to stay afloat and could use your support now more than ever.

Shopping at local businesses helps keep money in the area and boosts the local economy. In cities like Toronto, where most non-essential businesses have been forced to close, this is more important than ever.

It’s never been easy to maintain a business. Studies show that even before COVID-19 hit, only 36 percent of businesses in the goods sector and 31 percent of businesses in the services sector remain active 15 years after opening in Canada. Despite the odds, small business owners are passionate about what they do and right now many are losing so much of what they’ve worked for.

Their work is also fundamental to job creation. Of the 590,800 jobs created in the private sector between 2013 and 2018, small businesses were responsible for 335,800. This accounts for roughly 56 per cent of net employment growth in the private sector in Canada.

Want to get going on holiday shopping but not sure where to start? Here are five ways you can help small businesses stay alive this season.

1. Find out which local businesses do delivery or curbside pickup

The first time we went into lockdown, it happened very quickly. Restaurants and businesses scrambled to figure out how to continue providing services. Over time, more and more places created online websites to allow for delivery or curbside pickup. The second lockdown came as less of a shock, so you can likely catch most of your favourite businesses on an online platform.

We all scroll through Amazon to gain inspiration from their holiday deals. But if you do find something you like, find out which local businesses sell the product you are looking for. If you find one, go directly to their website to order through the company itself instead of through Amazon. Your money will go to local business owners instead of Jeff Bezos. 

For Ryerson students on or near campus, here are a few local businesses to try out: Soft Focus for clothing, Craig’s Cookies for all your snacking needs, Biko Jewelry for that special person in your life, or Logan & Finley for eco-friendly skincare and household products. 

2. Leave positive reviews

If there is a business you love, why not let people know? Word of mouth is a great way to tell others about your experience, but why not take it up a notch and leave a written review? There are many ways to write reviews: Google, Yelp, or even Facebook. It is common for people to check out reviews before trying out a new place for the first time to ensure good quality, especially in the hectic months of holiday shopping. Kind words only take a few minutes on your end, but can really help local businesses increase their clientele. 

3. Gift cards

We’ve been told giving a gift card isn’t as thoughtful, but not this year. Purchasing a gift card for the holidays now is like giving a local business an advance, one that might help them get through the next few months of a pandemic. If there is a particular place your loved one enjoys, check to see if they are selling gift cards. Gift cards can also be a good idea for you, too!

4. Book virtual classes

It isn’t just restaurants or retail stores that have gone online, many local businesses are providing online services. Right now, most people are looking for something to keep them from the same routine everyday and virtual classes can be a great gift to help them to do that.

The possibilities are endless: yoga or personal trainers, music or acting classes, learning a new language, tutoring. These options are all offered by small businesses. You can even learn how to roll your own sushi with the chef of Blowfish and Koko Share Bar, or photography lessons at cameraschool.ca.

5. Order from a Toronto local business initiative

You don’t have to support just one business at a time. There are many initiatives that have been designed to support local businesses that your friends and family would love. For example, Bag of Toronto is a project that allows you to order custom-built bags filled with seven food and gift products from five different Toronto neighbourhoods. A portion of their profits and all the tips are donated to charities in those neighbourhoods. 

If you want to more regularly support small businesses, Box of 6ix is a subscription that sends a package of food and other products from local Toronto businesses every month, with each package highlighting a different neighbourhood.

This article may have been created with the use of AI software such as Google Docs, Grammarly, and/or Otter.ai for transcription.

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