January 12, 2021

Main Street Pandemic Purchases? Here’s How British & Canadian Main Streets Are Doing

Great Britain’s “High” or main streets are seeing  purchases for things other than food drop by 24 percent in shopping areas, with an overall decline in sales being the worst since record keeping started in 1995.

As The Guardian’s Richard Partington writes closing down “non-essential” shops never recovered from the online spending takeovers.Total retail sales increased 1.8 percent from November to December and surprisingly food and drink sales were the highest recorded for holiday spending. Credit card company Barclaycard saw online retail spending increase over 50 percent in December.

Canada has not had as many strict pandemic closures as in Great Britain but this study undertaken by  Vancity, Vancity Community Investment Bank (VCIB), and the Canadian Urban Institute shows that from September to December visits to main street businesses decreased 35 to 70 percent compared to 2019, with nearly 60 percent of businesses making less money, some garnering half of the revenue made pre-pandemic.

Retail Insider’s  Mario Toneguzzi  reports that the interim President of Vancity says it clearly~

Local businesses form the backbone of the Canadian economy and they have shown determination and resilience during the pandemic. Given the extraordinary measures and investment they have made to continue operating, they are now counting on us to get behind them.”

Concentrating on main streets in communities in Ontario and British Columbia, research shows that small businesses directly attached to the local community performed better. Up to one quarter of all businesses were doing more business online. Sadly in Victoria and in Vancouver (the survey was conducted in Vancouver’s Strathcona) the majority of business owners reported increased safety issues in their location as keeping customers away.

When asked what businesses need to stay afloat on Canadian main streets, encouraging local shopping, doing away with the pricy fixed cost of food delivery services, better access to financing and a more supportive tax structure were cited.

What was also interesting was the insight of business owners to the big elephant REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts)  and property investment companies on city’s main streets, who are more focussed in the property ownership than the longevity and viability of businesses and the existing neighbourhoods.

Here’s a YouTube video of the ShopHere program that was inspired, created, and implemented by university students at the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto. Employing one hundred students, the project creates online services and connections for each business to help them transition digitally during the pandemic at no cost to businesses.

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