Local businesses have a long winter ahead of them.
While we talk about recovery — residents returning to a more normal life, business owners hoping vaccinations and lifted restrictions will lead to economic recovery — the pandemic has taken its toll.
Eduardo Lafforgue, president of the NOTL Chamber of Commerce, says, “we cannot stress enough how important it is for people to get out and support the businesses in their community. Small, family-owned businesses were hit hard during the pandemic, enduring long periods when they could not open their doors. They can use our help now.”
Lafforgue, with Mishka Balsom, CEO of the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce, is asking locals for support.
“In every corner of Niagara, in every municipality, in every sector — retail, seasonal, eateries, wineries — there are local businesses that can use your support,” says Balsom. “We would love to see Niagara residents out supporting their community’s businesses, and then sharing that experience to encourage their neighbours to do the same.”
The two chambers of commerce began exploring a campaign to encourage people to shop local in 2019, pre-pandemic, before they knew what was on the horizon for the economy. They wanted locals to consider exploring their own backyards, says Lafforgue.
They realized even then it would be better to do it in partnership, benefitting from “critical mass,” rather than going it alone, he says.
When the pandemic hit, the need for local support became even more obvious, and recently, with funding from FedDev (the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario), the two chambers have launched a campaign asking Niagara residents to shop locally, and share their experiences on social media with the hashtag #NiagaraMyWay.
The goal is to “ultimately paint a broad mosaic of what Niagara means to different people, and help build a sense of community where people are encouraged to shop locally.”
Lafforgue adds, “this shows how well we can do when we are collaborating. Joining forces makes a huge difference.”
The media campaign, which was launched earlier this month, will continue to January, targeting locals, visitors from Niagara Region, Hamilton and the GTA, says Lafforgue.
Businesses interested in participating can register at gncc.ca/niagaramyway/ or www.chambernotl.com/shop-local.
The campaign will highlight businesses who are taking part, and locals who frequent their businesses are asked to share their experience with #NiagaraMyWay. And if they come across a #NiagaraMyWay post or ad, they are asked to help amplify it by sharing it.
It seems the right time to grow this concept organically, with the economy hopefully on its way to recovery, says Lafforgue, with the help of locals shopping locally for everything from a coffee to clothing, gifts and groceries, encouraging their friends and neighbours to do the same.
“We can show how we shop, how we dine, and how we do it our way,” he says, “sharing our shopping experience online.”
It’s a perfect time, he adds, “because we don’t know what the fall will look like. We’re still not seeing the international tourists, and the support of locals really is essential. We’re very thankful for the support of locals who are helping keep our businesses alive.”