Small businesses in the Glebe, as elsewhere, are struggling in the aftermath of COVID and in the midst of runaway inflation and fundamental changes in consumer behaviour. Many businesses are looking to local residents to boost their chances of survival by buying local this holiday season.
Photo: Alivia Vanin
By Alivia Vanin
With the holiday season fast approaching, small businesses in the Glebe are hoping that neighbourhood residents will “shop local” to carry them through the new year.
Many small businesses are in a seemingly never-ending struggle for survival. To keep going during the pandemic lockdown, some accepted a burdening amount of financial assistance in the form of government loans. While the terms were good, the resulting debt, with interest, is crippling. Many business owners are living on borrowed funds or savings while trying to navigate the COVID aftermath. Many are deciding if they will close in the next six months.
And back-to-normal after COVID does not necessarily mean back-to-business. COVID has changed the shopping landscape, perhaps forever, with online retailers taking a huge chunk from bricks-and-mortar sales.
Small businesses tend to fluctuate wildly in the number of sales they see. The holiday season is the one consistent period of strong sales, with more business in every retail environment. Many businesses make up to half their sales during the final two months of the year.
“Consumer purchasing habits have changed, seemingly permanently,” says Jackie Morphy, owner of AllEco, a Bank Street store that sells eco-friendly products in the self-care, cleaning and food industries.
In the struggle to stay open after four years of adversity, Morphy is focusing on boosting her online sales. The social media campaign to “buy local” helped to combat the damage done by lockdowns, she says, but its momentum has since faded. She’s hoping this holiday season will bring local residents back out to Bank Street for their gift shopping.
Lisa Greeves, owner of Octopus Books at 116 Third Avenue, complains that her business is impacted by the lack of foot traffic in the cooler weather. COVID has also caused a significant drop in sales, so Greeves is banking on the heightened sales that come with the December holiday season.
“The support of our community has gotten us through some challenging times,” she says.
Independent bookstores like Octopus are constantly swimming against the current of larger companies and online shopping, so Greeves hopes Glebites will check out the little store on Third before going online and picking the fastest delivery option.
The Papery has had to deal with a devastating fire on Boxing Day last year. In a show of resilience and nimbleness, the store opened its current pop-up store upstairs at 858 Bank Street while repairs to their store are slowly being completed. The Papery specializes in stationery, wrapping paper, cards and all things seasonal. They start preparing for the Christmas rush in August. Owner Katherine Slack has expanded the pop-up shop to include a “wrap room” to make it a one-stop shop for the final step of your holiday shopping. Slack has “always loved the Glebe” and wants to continue to be a part of the community.
The Papery, as with many Glebe businesses, is participating in the famous Glebe Spree, a promotional effort by the BIA to bring people to the Glebe for shopping with the lure of winning big prizes.
As easy as it is to order all you need online at this busy time of year, consider stopping into any of the local shops in the community. Every purchase goes a long way. Your dollar may mean the difference between life and death for your favourite Glebe small business!
Alivia Vanin is a Carleton student in the English and Creative Writing program.