This past month, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) instituted new lockdown restrictions due to increasing COVID-19 cases across the region. These new restrictions changed the allowable sizes of social gatherings, prevented people from eating at restaurants and stopped local retailers from allowing customers into their stores. Due to these restrictions, many local businesses feared that a decreased amount of local shopping would be detrimental to their businesses’ ability to keep afloat during the holiday season. This is because the holidays are the busiest time of year for many of these stores. Small, family-run businesses are especially fearing the worst as they rely on the holidays to operate year-round.
Through this fear, a collection of local retail stores in Roncesvalles, Toronto, worked together with the BIA (Roncesvalles Business Association) to remind GTA residents of what will happen if they do not shop local. Together, these retail stores planned a publicity stunt to deceive the local community into believing that their business operations had ended due to decreased sales.
One evening, dozens of stores along Roncesvalles plastered `For Lease' signs across their storefronts. Within minutes, videos and pictures went viral as residents assumed that their local community had gone out of business. Toronto residents were instantly horrified and confused. For some, these feelings lasted minutes until they realized that these retail stores were conducting a plea for residents to shop local. For others, it was only until the event was reported in the news the next day when they discovered that these shops had, in fact, not gone out of business.
Although these retail stores conducted a brief act of deceit, the public's response was incredibly positive. For the next week, lines to shop at the stores stretched across each Roncesvalles block, and many other shopping districts in Toronto, as communities came together to support local stores during these unprecedented times.
Now, what can you do to help out local stores?
You don't have to live in Roncesvalles to support local retail stores. Look to buy gifts and holiday items at local stores in your region. Before spending money at larger businesses, look up if a small store in your local community also holds that product. Take it one step further by encouraging friends and family to shop local as well. Share with the people in your local community stores that provide excellent gifts and holiday decorations. Look for local bakeries and markets to conduct your holiday dinner shopping.
Every little bit of spending helps contribute to ensuring your local community is thriving. Just remember, without a conscious effort, the Roncesvalles publicity stunt can become a reality in any neighbourhood or community.