The city has launched a program to set up small businesses for internet shopping, Mayor John Tory announced today.
The program called ShopHERE will “provide Toronto’s independent businesses and artists the opportunity to develop an online store which will be built and launched for free in a matter of a very few days,” Tory said in his daily COVID-19 briefing.
ShopHERE, launched with the help of Toronto BIAs and corporate partners, is intended to minimize the impact of the pandemic, he said.
“Small businesses are the backbone of … not just of our economy but of our neighbourhoods, of our healthy neighbourhoods, and that is why it is so important for us to help them,” Tory said.
He said the program will help get more services online, so consumers can take advantage of curbside pickup and delivery options deliveries being offered by businesses now.
Asked by media why ShopHERE was being introduced only now, two months into the pandemic shutdown, Tory replied it was building on the Digital Main Street platform, which has been helping businesses adapt to digital change for several years and which has had its budget tripled during the pandemic.
ShopHERE will provide help for an ongoing challenge faced by small businesses, Tory said.
“The benefit isn’t just during the pandemic period. The benefit is long thereafter, as it helps these businesses — many of which have been around for a long time — to adapt to some of the new realities of retail in the city of Toronto.”
The program is available to businesses and artists through the end of August, said a city press release. The goal is to develop 3,000 online stores in that time.
The program is to provide independent businesses and artists with templates to develop stores on Shopify, an online ecommerce platform, as well as free assistance in setting up and operating an online store.
An estimated 49,501 Toronto business — including 7,371 restaurants, bars or cafes — are eligible for the program, city staff have determined.
Beaches-East York councillor Brad Bradford is a big supporter of the program.
“We’re not taking our foot off the pedal and in our city’s effort to support independent businesses, especially the mom and pops that are the heart of main streets everywhere,” Bradford said in the press release.
“The ShopHere program will help even more small businesses get online and keep businesses viable as we work together to recover from the impact of COVID-19,” he said. “Keeping small businesses afloat is critical until we can get our communities back out on main street.”
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