Toronto Launches Digital Main Street Initiative ShopHERE

The program will help struggling businesses set up online stores and develop marketing campaigns.

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Need to Know

  • ShopHERE’s main goal is to help small businesses set up online stores, in support of post-COVID economic recovery efforts.
  • The program will set up support, develop and launch online stores, then release marketing campaigns with free advertising credits.
  • Toronto mayor John Tory revealed the initiative will involve the help of some of the city’s top tech giants, including Shopify, Facebook, and Google.
  • ShopHERE will also enlist volunteer web developers and marketers.
  • The program is open to artists, businesses with fewer than 10 employees, or fewer than 25 if they are restaurants or bars.

Analysis

The City of Toronto on Monday announced a new digital initiative, ShopHERE, aimed at helping small local businesses recover from the economic impact of COVID-19 through stronger online and e-commerce capabilities. The program will provide resources to small businesses that currently do not have the capabilities to pivot to online commerce.

With ShopHERE, which is part of the city’s ongoing participation in the Ontario Digital Mail Street initiative, the city aims to set up 3,000 online stores for local independent businesses and artists. The program is being developed and facilitated with the assistance of some of the city’s (and the world’s) biggest tech names, including Google, Shopify, Facebook, eBay, Microsoft, Mastercard, and others.

The Schulich School of Business is also offering the services of 50 MBA, Masters’ and undergraduate students will gain summer placements and be assigned to help out affected businesses.

“The time to act in support of Toronto’s main street businesses is now,” said Schulich Entrepreneur in Residence Chris Carder, who spearheaded the engagement for Schulich. “We know our students will work with passion, focus and creativity in this important placement opportunity and we’re thrilled to team up with Digital Main Street and its powerhouse team of technology partners.”

However, Toronto mayor John Tory issued a “challenge” to other tech companies to get involved, asking in a press conference on Monday they “volunteer to build online stores for Toronto’s independent businesses and artists to help them survive and recover.”

ShopHERE also leverages the volunteer talent of web developers and marketers. The program aims to provide businesses with at least 17 hours of digital expertise and hands-on support, including template customization, online store set-up and launch assistance, and training on how to best adapt to a digital retail environment.

Ontario’s Digital Main Street initiative, which was launched in 2018, exists with the goal of ensuring small and independent retailers can shift towards an increased focus and prioritization of digital development. The program, which received an initial investment of $12-million from the Government of Ontario at the time of its launch, has since been rolled out in more than 315 communities province-wide.

Within Toronto, it is estimated that nearly 50,000 businesses would be able to take part in the ShopHERE program.

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