It’s a good step but a lot of small businesses suffering through the pandemic may not be able to take advantage.
That is Delta Chamber of Commerce executive director Garry Shearer’s take on this week’s announcement by the provincial government of the Launch Online Grant program, designed to help more than 1,500 eligible small-and-medium-sized B.C. businesses adapt to changes in consumer behaviour and pivot to market their products online.
Delta North MLA Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation, announced government is investing $12 million to help businesses launch or upgrade an online store.
Up to 25 per cent of the program funds will be reserved for regional and Indigenous businesses.
The province notes people have increased their reliance on online shopping with more than $305 billion in e-commerce sales in Canada in 2019.
E-commerce sales are projected to have doubled through 2020 and are expected to increase further in 2021.
Saying anything to help the small business sector will be well received, including the new grant of up to $7,500 to enhance online shopping, Shearer noted many small-and-medium sized business just have a very basic online presence or none at all.
“The reality is a lot of small business owners who have no experience with online transactions, whether they’re going to be able to take advantage of this or not is yet to be seen. It’s very positive the government is reaching out to those businesses that certainly have the motivation and incentive, but for a small business that’s never thought about doing anything online, to start from ground zero is going to cost them more than $10,000 to do something like that,” he said.
“Doing online business is not just a matter of turning on an online website and suddenly you have business. It’s turning it on and doing everything you would normally do through any channel of promoting your business or your products and all the customer service stuff that has to go behind that in order to make it an effective channel to market…it’s a great initiative and a way to bring small businesses to the table to at least think about an online presence, so that in itself is positive,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Delta Chamber continues to be busy trying to help the local business community through Delta's COVID-19 Community Resilience and Economic Recovery Support Team (CRERST), an initiative spearheaded by the city to support businesses impacted by the pandemic.
The chamber is focused on providing businesses impacted by the pandemic with COVID-19 restart tools and business resource support, while Tourism Delta, the Ladner Business Association, Tsawwassen Business Improvement Association and the fledgling North Delta Business Association are focusing on placemaking and marketing strategies.
Noting they meet every second week, Shearer said they have been doing much focus on the We Love Delta program, which is mainly focused on small retailers, restaurants and service providers.
Now that the holiday initiatives have passed, one of the upcoming campaigns will be a Dine around Delta initiative, inspired by the Dine around Vancouver campaign.
Various other tourism, outdoor and staycation opportunities are also being explored.