All businesses have felt the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, retail-oriented main street businesses have suffered, with stores closed and in-person commerce halted. In order to survive, many of these businesses have had to pivot their operations from brick and mortar locations to the digital marketplace. With support from the Government of Canada through the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF), many main street businesses are turning to digital solutions as a way to maintain their operations and strengthen their resilience for future growth.
Targeted Support for Main Street businesses and SMEs
On June 11, 2020, the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages, announced a $42.5 million FedDev Ontario investment to expand the Digital Main Street (DMS) platform. Building on Toronto’s foundational investments in Digital Main Street and ShopHERE, this Government of Canada investment extended the support to businesses across the province to go digital while creating jobs for post-secondary youth and graduate students. In less than five months since the funding was announced, over 6,900 businesses have received free digital training, consultations and hands-on support in enhancing online presence and e-commerce opportunities.
Supporting BruceGreySimcoe region businesses to go digital
Today, Parliamentary Secretary Kate Young met virtually with Digital Main Street partners, recipients and students in the BruceGreySimcoe region to hear about their experiences with the program. Business owners shared how the vital support received has helped them regain lost revenue, strengthened their resilience and opened new opportunities for growth.
Hundreds of businesses in the region have benefited from Digital Main Street support, with local students and recent graduates hired to provide tailored advice and services to help local businesses go digital.
As an example, Casey Thomson of The Cheese Gallery, a gourmet food shop in Thornbury, faced uncertainty when the pandemic forced her to close her shop doors. Through a Digital Transformation Grant, Thomson was able to create a website, move her entire inventory of products online and enhance the company’s social media presence.
The Creemore Refillery is a Clearview-based company that is on a plastic-free mission, offering eco-friendly home and personal care products and providing customers the opportunity to refill containers for home cleaning and bath and body care products. Owner Jacquie Rushlow had to close her doors as a result of COVID-19 and was forced to move her entire product and service offering online overnight. With the help of a Digital Transformation Grant, the company was able to purchase professional photography equipment to improve its social media presence and move products online. DMS support also helped the company get e-commerce ready.
For more information on the Digital Main Street program, please visit https://digitalmainstreet.ca/.