Winter Price Meltdown
by Isabel Mosseler
The West Nipissing Chamber of Commerce is making a big push to encourage WN residents to shop local, either by placing orders for pick-up, purchasing gift certificates or even making a layaway for once the restrictions on Ontario businesses have been lifted. Stuart Seville, a local entrepreneur who sits on the Chamber board, is helping to spearhead the promotion in an effort to stave off potential business closures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. With many small businesses in the community forced to stop or significantly reduce their operations, the fear is that some may not survive while their revenues are down and costs keep accumulating.
The plan calls for businesses to issue gift certificates or credit notes for future use, so that they can take in some revenue now and provide goods or services later, once restrictions are lifted. For example, if a homeowner was planning to install a new floor in their kitchen, they could invest with a local supplier immediately and pay on a layaway option. Seville wants local citizens to think of it in terms of saving the local economy.
The plan has already been posted on the town’s website, but Seville is also hoping to have a continuous promotion in local media and online, as well as through decals in shop windows. “We will be releasing a media blast from the Chamber to spell out what we would like people to do. We need to support these local businesses that are going through a rough time. Any kind of retail business, and businesses as a whole, going through January and February are the roughest months. In March things start to open up, and that’s what happened here. March was opening up so businesses could actually catch up and then things shut down, at probably the worst time ever for any small business – there is no cash flow! The same for contractors; they can’t work during the winter months, and some of them have to buy equipment on lines of credit and expected to be working now. Wham! I’ve heard from so many people and they don’t know what to do, and not all of them qualify for CERB… people are in dire, dire straits.”
Seville credits Sturgeon Falls resident Ken Perrin, who wanted to help a local business that had to shut its doors and suggested selling gift certificates. He jumped on the idea, feeling it could be expanded to include all local businesses. “If we can start putting up contact lists... we could get something going… Not just bricks and mortar businesses; there’s a lot of other businesses out there, people who run things from home but who are still providing a service that everyone in this town needs. Whether it’s gift certificates, gift cards… or write out a receipt ‘service to be rendered’.”
Seville points out that many people save up for big projects, and they can switch that ‘savings account’ to a local business that needs the funds now. “The majority of contractors usually want 25% down anyway to cover their materials at the beginning, so why not give it to them now? You know you’re going to get the flooring, or the screen door, or the deck… just invest into people. This is our community, it’s a small community, and most people know everyone anyway.”
“There has to be strict accountability, of course,” adds Seville. “The town has gotten involved already… We have to focus on this or there may be nothing left... This is not any of our fault.” He notes that the effort needs to be sustained over the coming weeks, and it may never again be business as usual because of coronavirus. Businesses will have to adapt and change their models, and it’s critical that local economies be promoted.
He adds that local governments depend on a tax base, and without business, all those taxes for services will devolve on residential taxpayers. “We have to support these people at the moment... The whole thing has changed. They are saying no more events in Canada until the New Year? That’s everything from weddings to major events.” That means caterers and entertainers, apparel, venue rentals – just the one example has a series of spin-offs.
The message is that local people have to double down, triple down, on supporting the local economy. Seville says to stay tuned as more local initiatives roll out over the coming weeks.
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Stuart Seville, on behalf of the WN Chamber of Commerce, is calling on residents to support local business to help them survive the COVID-19 closure.
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