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Black Friday is coming up this week, and while many retailers often brace for this hectic shopping day, this year is completely different due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Typically, this time of the year accounts for almost 19 per cent of the annual sales made by retailers. But with some stores being forced to close, some retailers have shifted their focus towards social commerce, while other small businesses are having a hard time deciding their next business move.

In Ontario, the province recently added more restrictions throughout the province, where Toronto and Peel regions have been put into lockdown. As a result, retailers in these regions have been forced to shut down, where curbside pick-up and delivery services are the only options for shopping. Essential businesses are allowed to run, but with strict restrictions that only allow 50 per cent capacity.

For small businesses in Toronto and Peel, this is another major setback from the COVID-19 pandemic. While many retailers have been affected by the pandemic, small businesses have faced a tougher challenge trying to stay afloat. Statistics Canada stated that it was more likely for small businesses to report a revenue decrease of 40 per cent or more as a result of the pandemic.

Small businesses are important for the Canadian economy, but the pandemic has forced many small retailers to close down due to financial hardships. With the recent lockdowns happening throughout Canada, it is estimated that up to 225,000 businesses could close according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).

“The impact on these firms of having to remain closed for an extended period of time is, for many, going to be fatal,” said Dan Kelly, the president and CEO of CFIB to CTV News.

Growing Importance of Shopping Locally

Statistics Canada indicated that small businesses make up 98 per cent of all employer businesses in Canada. When you shop at a local store, the money you give to these establishments stay within the community which in turn helps with the local development and the economy of your country according to Shopify.

The Retail Council of Canada recently released a survey which found that many Canadians are starting to understand the importance of shopping locally. The study found that 90 per cent of Canadians say that buying from a retailer in Canada is important for this holiday season. Despite the overwhelming support for local businesses, a survey last month by the CFIB found that only one-third of Canadians will actually shop at local businesses.

While small businesses have struggled immensely during the pandemic, big box retailers have flourished. Last month, Amazon released its Q3 earnings, where the company indicated a 37 per cent increase in profits compared to Q2 of this year. With the holiday season approaching, it would be safe to assume that Amazon and other major retailers are likely to make record profits again as many consumers still plan to continue shopping at these retail giants. The same survey from CFIB found that 66 per cent of Canadians plan to do their holiday shopping this year with major retailers like Amazon and Walmart.

Small Businesses in Toronto You Can Support

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With the pandemic forcing many small businesses to shutter, Canadians have a choice in helping these local businesses survive during these challenging times.

Alison Haberstroh, an account manager from Qode Social, recently created a list of Toronto businesses that consumers should consider buying from instead of major retailers.

“I wanted to create something that made it as convenient as possible to support our neighbours so there would be less of a temptation to shop through Amazon,” said Haberstroh.

“I also wanted to make sure that the website reflects how vibrant and diverse the city is, even if we’re in lockdown again. There is a priority on BIPOC-owned businesses, as well as businesses owned by LGBT+ members and people living with disabilities.”


Haberstroh was also recently interviewed by CBC Radio and The Canadian Press about her project. She feels overwhelmed about the amount of support so far.

“I literally made the document thinking around 100 people would look at it… it is very much a Google Spreadsheet at the current moment [laughs], but I think people’s enthusiasm to support these businesses is the coolest thing,” said Haberstroh.

“I am not really one for interviews and public speaking and putting my name out there, so it’s been quite overwhelming, but I think it’s all for the greater good and I feel really flattered that people care so much!”

While the project initially started in just Toronto, Haberstroh’s friend also started a new list for Halifax. Haberstroh is excited to have the project potentially take off around Canada, as local businesses need as much help as possible.

“I think the next few months are going to be really critical for making sure these small businesses stay alive,” said Haberstroh. “I hope it all translates to big money and new lifetime customers for these businesses.”