'It's a completely different business model': St. Thomas business tries to adapt to new online world
LONDON, ONT. -- The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on area businesses. Some may never open their doors again.
In downtown St. Thomas, the city had just reinvented itself from a recession, and it was blossoming.
Now, previously packed business parking lots are empty, and many stores have shut their doors. Others have gone to curbside pickup.
At Purely Wicked on Talbot Street, owner Kim Goodhue is trying to adapt quickly to a digital world.
"It's a completely different business model than what I had in the brick and mortar store," says Goodhue, who sells candles, skin care and Harry Potter merchandise.
"Online is a completely different world."
Without much of a virtual presence, Goodhue used the help of the Downtown Development Board's (DDB) digital service squad to build a website, and access online sales.
"We were in process of improving people's digital footprint to give businesses an online presence...and once this hit it went into high gear," says Grayden Laing, who owns a local production company.
"We are going out and talking to different businesses and asking how has COVID-19 affected them. We are trying to find out how the public can they access their services, and what they have to provide."
Laing says there has been a lot of positive feedback from the program.
And on Tuesday the St. Thomas Economic Development Corporation (STEDC) jumped on board with funding program to support small businesses.
"Grants are going to be put out in sums of $2,000," says Sean Dyke, general manager of the STEDC.
However Dyke says with great deals on e-commerce websites right now, he's not sure it most businesses will need the full amount.
He says from his conversations with store owners it seems no one was prepared to be fully online in this environment.
"We've noticed a number of local businesses don’t have online shops, don't use digital marketing as effectively as they could, and are not search engine optimizing," adds Dyke.
They have an application form for local businesses to apply for their help, but adds they are open to listening to other concepts and ideas as well.
The DDB has provided a list on their website of non-essential businesses and restaurants that are doing delivery and offering pick-up options.
And the London Chamber of Commerce and the London Economic Development Corporation partnered do something similar. They have created a COVID-19 business portal.
At Purely Wicked, Goodhue says the online business has seen its highs and lows so far, and hopes it's sustainable.
"As long as people keep shopping we should be OK for a couple months," says Goodhue. "I have no idea how long we can do this for. I guess it depends on the support of my customers."