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July is independent retailer month, and we all know the pandemic has been incredibly hard on this segment of the economy. Many small businesses and family-run shops have closed in the last year. When you consider that $63 of every $100 spent  at a local store is recirculated back into the local community, you start to understand how the demise of these shops can impact a neighbourhood. By contrast, only $14 of that money remains in the area when the $100 goes to a large multinational retail location. The point is that independent retailers are important because they stimulate local economy and that money stays with the owner and is reinvested in the community.

What is an Independent Retailer?

An independent retailer builds their business without help from an established brand. This is the family-run pizza joint on the corner, not a Pizza Hut franchise that has the backing of international clout and an established reputation. These shops and stores are part of the fabric of a neighbourhood, making an area unique. Owners may employ people who live in the area, provide a sense of community, and contribute to local events and clubs. And every independent retailer supports other area businesses by doing their part to attract customers.

The Buck Stops Here

Independent retailers are solo business owners. They aren’t beholden to shareholders or a big corporation. This independence can be liberating! But it also means the owner needs to do all the marketing, sales, promotion, business planning—all the EVERYTHING on their own. Because they don’t have the support of a large corporation, they rely not only on themselves, but on a local network. This often includes family members, and it definitely includes staff and the community where the shop operates.

Trade Associations

Trade associations are part of the support system available to independent retailers. The members are a collection of like-minded stores that are peers in the business community. Joining a trade association is a way to find out about incentives and learn other important advantages from the association itself and through fellow entrepreneurs. In this country, the Retail Council of Canada and the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses provide resources for the retail industry.

Trade shows are another outlet bringing together businesses with common goals. Key West Video has certainly participated in its share of small business expos over the years! These gatherings are a handy way to meet other retailers in the area and get their take on doing business locally. Networking events like this often lead to collaborations and idea sharing that benefit all involved.

Business Stats

The bad news is that small business has suffered greatly during the pandemic. The good news is that the economy is showing signs of recovery. Now that Ontario is in step 2 of the reopening, and looking toward step 3, businesses have a chance to finally make money again. Below are some numbers from Stats Canada that are an indication of what’s been happening with independent retailers since early 2020.

  • Canada’s Gross Domestic Product declined 5.4% in 2020
  • Retail sales were up 3.6% in March 2021
  • Small businesses account for 97.9% of all businesses operating in the country
  • Small businesses contribute toward slightly less than 40% of the country’s GDP

Video Support

Without an established brand to help generate interest and recognizability, being an independent retailer can be difficult. You need to create awareness in the target market. A video can help promote not just your store, but also your products and services. Use this format to give viewers a tour of your store, tell your business origin story, or talk about what makes your shop unique. Once this content is created, it can be posted on a website, used as a whole or in parts on social media, and uploaded to YouTube. A video is a piece of content with a lot of potential.

Open for Business

One positive business-related aspect of the pandemic has been the push to buy local. This has been so important for independent retailers and has helped a lot of consumers better understand the impact of their spending. Many people are looking to keep their dollars in the community, so be sure they know you’re in the neighbourhood and open for business.

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