Friday, January 22, 2021

More Ways to Shop Locally This Christmas – Online, Offline, Or on The Phone

Submitted by Vic Michener, Meaford Chamber of Commerce

Santa’s still making sure he visits downtown Meaford. Downtown shops are unveiling their windows. The Chamber of Commerce has invited Meaford residents to join a tour of lights. And this Christmas, you can still support local businesses, even if your holiday shopping trip is virtual (or semi-virtual).

In Christmases of recent past, online shopping has replaced much of the traditional holiday browsing for presents and stocking stuffers we used to do – and our local main-street businesses have had to fight against the big guys at the best of times. With the COVID-19 crisis keeping us home more than usual, Christmas 2020 might have you heading to massive online retailers.

But wait. You can still support local businesses and shop locally while following pandemic protocol.

Meaford, in fact, is home to one of Canada’s most active independent e-commerce retailers. Canadian Pet Connection moved here from Oakville in 2017 as online commerce became more important to the family-run company’s growth. Lucky Meafordites can visit the retail outlet, but the online shop serves customers in every province and territory in Canada, with 3,500 products currently on offer.

Since March, when lockdowns began, business has exploded and continues to grow. “Our sales went up 500 percent overnight,” says Angela Forder, Director of Marketing and E-commerce. “When COVID hit, we had to close the retail store. We were so incredibly lucky that we had spent the time already building this e-commerce website and growing our customer base. Even a lot of our Meaford customers started shopping online instead.” (During the last several months, some pet owners who have been wary of online shopping in the past found themselves more nervous about in-person shopping. After a reassuring chat with staff, they took their first forays into the world of e-commerce.)

The Chamber of Commerce, with financial support from the Municipality of Meaford, is helping a number of local businesses take their wares online. The eCommerce Assistance Program is providing website e-commerce development to allow stores to sell directly from their websites or showcase their products more effectively.

  • What to get for the pet who has everything. Adam Harrington, of Northern Nutrition Pet Treat & Food Co., recently opened his online shop through the program. Northern Nutrition offers pet treats made from locally sourced ingredients, and features three keystone products so far: certified organic sweet potatoes, pasture raised chicken, and grass-fed beef.
  • Maybe a car for Christmas? Reg Noble’s Used Cars, a Meaford institution, has introduced a new website using the program. Of course, you can’t purchase one of his quality used vehicles online, but you can see what he has on the lot, and get down there to make a deal.
  • Art lovers on your list? Craig Gallery will soon begin offering sales on smaller items, as well as showcasing details and pricing for more expensive art works.
  • Give the gift that keeps on giving. You’re enjoying local coverage right now, so you already know the weekly print edition of The Meaford Independent would make a great gift. You’ll soon have the ability to subscribe online, but until that’s live, use the form available online. (The Chamber and Municipality supported the e-commerce portion of the recent website renovation.)
  • And thanks to the program, pizza lovers will soon see a new online order experience for both pickup and delivery at Amici Restaurant & Pizzeria.

More local businesses are gearing up for online shopping under the program. And other businesses in town already have robust online ordering set-ups.

But you can also simply pick up the phone. Ask your favourite retailer, restaurant, or professional service about gift certificates. (You can get quick contact info for businesses in Meaford in the Meaford Chamber business directory. Visit meafordchamber.ca.)

Or buy your present over the phone, then arrange for delivery, pick up in store as possible, or use curbside pick up should the existing health guidelines warrant it.

And don’t forget local charities. A donation to the Meaford Food Bank, run by Golden Town Outreach, is a wonderful way to bring warmth to those in need. And the newly launched online version of the Treasure Tails, the Georgian Triangle Humane Society’s thrift store, offers some amazing finds. (Buy online, pick up at the store.)

New Year’s Resolutions for Local Businesses

If you haven’t yet expanded your brick-and-mortar business with an online outlet, it’s not too late. As Angela Forder notes, COVID-19 is changing people’s buying habits by the day. The eCommerce Assistance Program revealed just how many ways you can incorporate online shopping into your business. (And it’s easier to set up than you might imagine.)

Plan on making 2021 your year to realize the potential of allowing your customers to shop, browse in preparation, or satisfy that craving online.

 

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