As local businesses continue to struggle due to COVID-19 closures and restrictions, one Halifax street has put together what they are calling a “virtual shopping mall” to help keep their businesses afloat.
On Monday, the Quinpool Road Mainstreet District Association launched an online version of the street’s shops and services at www.quinpool.shop.
The site includes links to many Quinpool shops, services and restaurants that have transitioned their businesses into online sales, deliveries and arranged pickup to adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols.
“What do you do as a business association to help your members and market them during a pandemic?” recalls Karla Nicholson, general manager of the Quinpool Road Mainstreet District Association.
Nicholson went to a pair of Quinpool Road businesses, marketing firm Burke & Burke, and web developers immediaC, and they brainstormed the idea for a virtual shopping mall.
There are currently about 50 different businesses listed at one convenient location, with many also offering the option to buy a gift card to use later.
“This is our best attempt to save as many businesses on Quinpool Road as possible,” says Nicholson. “I’m optimistic that it will help many of them survive, assuming the federal and provincial programs help them and continue to evolve to meet the needs of all the businesses.”
The initiative is also assisting businesses that currently lack online shopping capability to quickly create and launch their own eCommerce shop at no charge.
That is a huge help to business owners like Mike Chambers, owner of Nautilus Aquatics and Hobbies.
“I’m not the computer-whiz type, but I’m going to have to do it and I need all the help I can get,” says Mike Chambers. “Larry Burke helped me set up a website, so we’re going to put the online store on there and once it’s there we’ll leave it permanently.”
Chambers says that, after a tough year last year due in part to traffic detours caused by construction, this year started out with a bang.
“January and February were the best we’ve had since we moved to this location. Our model railroad sales in February alone beat last year’s sales,” says Chambers.
Since closing in mid-March, Chambers’ sales have slowed down, especially of SCUBA, snorkeling, and aquatic gear and lessons, which Nautilus is known for.
While his aquatics sales are sinking, Chambers says many people are inquiring about his supplies of model railroads, rockets, cars, plastic models and puzzles, during a time when many people are looking for new hobbies to pass the time at home.
“I go through my messages, and I have 50-60 emails a day, and a couple dozen Facebook messages, asking for paint, supplies, and other items.”
Currently Nautilus is offering some arranged pick-ups on Saturday mornings, but Chambers hopes that transitioning to online sales will help keep his business afloat during a tough time.
“I’m getting the government supplement but that still doesn’t pay the rent,” says Chambers.
Nicholson says the association plans to aggressively market the new online shopping destination using the message “Stay Home, We’re Open,” allowing consumers to support their favourite Quinpool businesses, and discover new ones while shopping safely during the new reality under COVID-19 restrictions.
“We need to keep our businesses going at a slow burn and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Allan April, Videojournalist/Web Writer
CTV News Atlantic
Monday, April 13th, 2020