As Ontario declared a second state of emergency and entered another lockdown, a large number of small businesses closed their doors. Since many small businesses rely on the local community and in-store purchases, there’s no denying that the harm small businesses face from COVID-19 is disproportionally devastating.
Ever since its inception, Showfloor has been committed to helping hard-hit sectors that rely on face-to-face contact, whether it be trade shows, career fairs, or small business expos. Our platform was created with the exhibitor in mind, allowing them to easily obtain leads and customers, and therefore, revenue. We saw the struggle of small businesses with the impending lockdown, and we wanted to help.
On January 23, 2021, Showfloor and the “Your East End Community Stores are Online for You.” Facebook group partnered up to host the East Toronto Main Streets Virtual Market, bringing the public a free and safe way to support local small businesses amidst a pandemic – a time they clearly need it the most.
We hosted a variety of East Toronto businesses, from bakeries to children’s music schools, and clothing designers to fitness centres. There was truly something for everyone.
Showfloor’s platform was simple to use: attendees could browse each vendor’s booth and either “pick” or “pass” them in the same straightforward fashion as popular dating apps. Then, if they wished, the “chat” function allowed them to speak with the business owners over video, all in real-time. It was a virtual recreation of the familiar experience of walking down a street lined with shops. Visitors could get to know the business and its offerings, while engaging and helping out their community. What’s not to love? The public seemed to agree, the event had hundreds of registrations, including Julie Dabrusin, the local MP!
Many of the participating business owners also agreed, “Loving the show so far. I’ve already signed up a new business!” said Mike Allan, owner of Shoplocal.TO, “I spent 10 years of my career selling trade show space, so I understand the exhibition business. This is an amazing platform and your timing is perfect.”
There were also conversations with the promise of after-lockdown business. “Thank you for hosting this event, Showfloor,” shared Julie Walsh, owner of Workshop Gallery, “I spoke with several people and hope to see them soon!”
The East Toronto Main Streets Virtual Market allowed small businesses to increase their exposure and gain potential customers, even by those that chose not to speak face-to-face. “Great line-up today. Please tell the vendors I enjoyed viewing all their booths and learning more about the stores in my area,” an attendee commented. “I didn’t opt to speak to any reps because I’ve gotten a bit introverted as the pandemic has progressed, but that doesn’t mean I had no interest. Quite a few are now on my “to buy from” list.”
There were on-the-spot transactions as well, another attendee shared, “Great event, thank you to Showfloor and the vendors! I learned about several businesses I didn’t know about and visited sites to pick up items for my kids’ birthdays.”
It was an amazing opportunity for Showfloor to strengthen and support small businesses with this virtual expo and we wish them all the very best for the future. Local businesses are an integral part of our communities and it is important that we continue to support them both during the pandemic and beyond.