Efforts by the City of Orillia’s Economic Recovery Task Force to promote a Shop Local message are having a positive impact, according to evaluation measures and comments from local businesses.
“We’re receiving plenty of positive feedback on an ongoing basis that people are getting the message. More importantly, local residents are taking that message to heart by supporting our local business owners and operators more than ever during these unprecedented times,” said Coun. Ted Emond, Chair of the Economic Recovery Task Force (ERTF). “It’s very heartening, and obviously much appreciated by the businesses, which are the backbone of our local economy.”
The Shop Local message encourages residents to support local businesses while adhering to COVID-19 health and safety measures. Businesses across the City have pivoted to offer curbside pick-up, delivery, and takeout options. During the stay-at-home order, if you must go out for an essential reason, consider supporting local.
While larger chains can be more flexible to changing conditions and have larger margins, small and independent businesses are more at risk of being impacted by the pandemic. Shopping local helps ensure local entrepreneurs and small businesses survive the pandemic and remain a part of our community.
The City launched the ERTF in April 2020, and consistent efforts related to promoting a Shop Local attitude have been among its key initiatives.
The Shop Local campaign has used a mix of tools and techniques, including billboards, radio, video, social media and testimonials from local business owners, to encourage a consistent theme centred on supporting local businesses safely now, so they will still be here to service and support the community later.
Members of the ERTF include citizen volunteers, City of Orillia staff, the Orillia District Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Orillia Management Board (DOMB), Orillia & Lake Country Tourism (OLC) and the Orillia Area Community Development Corporation (CDC). They have amplified the Shop Local messaging within organization-specific programs and marketing on behalf of the business community, and experienced encouraging results.
OLC is currently wrapping up the annual Flavours of Lake Country initiative – this year with a takeout twist.
“We are hearing from local restaurants that there continues to be strong support from the community for takeout orders,” said Kris Puhvel, Executive Director of OLC.
The DOMB is also seeing the positive effects of the Shop Local messaging.
“Our members have told us that support from the community continues to be strong and steady during the different stages of COVID-19,” said Lisa Thomson-Roop, Manager of the DOMB. “The DOMB has also experienced an uptick in Downtown Dollars being purchased this year and last year by local businesses to be given out as gifts and promotions in an effort to keep paying support forward.”
The Orillia District Chamber of Commerce, which has been a strong supporter of the Rotary Club of Orillia’s efforts to promote Rotary Take Out Tuesday, is also receiving positive feedback from its members, according to Executive Director Allan Lafontaine.
The Chamber has also encouraged members of the public to prepay businesses that cannot open or operate, such as gyms and personal care services, for services that can be redeemed when businesses reopen.
Coun. David Campbell, who also sits on the ERTF, said he continues to hear about the effectiveness of the ERTF’s efforts from residents on their everyday spending habits.
“I think what’s been really great is when I talk to people who may have typically turned to Amazon to buy what they were looking for in the past, now I regularly hear these same people express not only how easy it is to shop online, but also to do it locally,” said Coun. Campbell. “That shows how effective this type of messaging has been.”
The ERTF encourages Orillia and area residents to keep shopping local in a safe and responsible manner. Businesses and residents should follow all COVID-19 health and safety guidelines. For a complete overview of the health and safety measures now in effect during the state of emergency and stay-at-home order,visit ontario.ca/covid-19.
Learn more about the Shop Local campaign and ways to shop local safely in Orillia and area at keepshoppinglocal.ca.