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Header What it means for small businesses when you shop local
• Dec. 21, 2023

The holiday season is here. And if you haven't checked everyone off your list yet, you're probably not alone.

According to predictions released earlier this month by credit and debit card processing company Moneris, Thursday, December 21 is expected to be one of the busiest shopping days of the holiday season (just behind Black Friday and Cyber Monday) with December 18 and 22 expected to be busy, too.

Clearly, not everyone gets a head start on their holiday shopping.

"There was lots of buzz about supporting local businesses during the pandemic, and even though things have gone back to a more normal way of life, our small businesses still rely on community support."

When you're strapped for time, you often can't order online since your gifts might arrive after the big day. Instead, you must look to nearby stores – which can be a boon for your local business community.

To understand how shopping local impacts small Canadian businesses, TD Stories spoke with some TD Business Banking customers about their growing businesses and how they approach the holidays.

"There was lots of buzz about supporting local businesses during the pandemic, and even though things have gone back to a more normal way of life, our small businesses still rely on community support," says Mariat Jibril, a B.C.-based TD Business Development Manager.

"I'm lucky to work with small, local businesses every day and I see how much they contribute to the fabric of their communities. By doing some of your holiday shopping at local businesses, you not only have a chance to pick up something unique, but it also helps to give back to your community," Jibril continues.

Why shop local?

Small businesses make up 98.1% of all employer businesses in Canada and employ nearly two-thirds of the entire labour force, says Statistics Canada.

And these small businesses rely on local customers to thrive. For Sonia Zebadua, co-owner of the Vancouver-area grocery store Mi Tierra Latina and a small business customer of TD, she hopes her customers enter her stores eager to try something new.

Mi Tierra Latina is a two-year-old Latin American grocery store that sells products from Mexico, Central and South America. Since opening in 2021, she and her team have expanded to six locations and are eying a move eastward. Without local customers, their rapid growth wouldn't have been possible.

"Getting to know the place where you're buying from is very important," says Zebadua, who loves how local businesses like hers give customers a chance to connect on a personal level with the retailers in their community. Customers can also get more personalized recommendations for what to buy for themselves – and their loved ones.

"Getting to know the place where you're buying from is very important."

While shopping for holiday gifts early – in October and November – can be a gift for retailers, last-minute gifting is often inevitable. At a grocer like Mi Tierra Latina, there are plenty of last-minute presents on offer, especially for those looking for a host or hostess gift.

Zebadua recommends items like Mexican vanilla, Colombian or Venezuelan cocoa, Argentinian dulce de leche, or coffee from one of the many coffee-growing regions in Central and South America.

Gift cards are also helpful for small businesses because they not only support retailers, but they can bring new customers in the door, too.

The value of word-of-mouth

Muriel Koucoï, founder of the Montreal-based Simkha Biocosmetiques, and a small business customer of TD, knows about the power of word-of-mouth marketing.

It's how she started her business in the first place. She's a medical biologist and clinical epidemiologist and when her now 20-year-old son was small, he had eczema. Nothing she tried for it worked. So, she turned to her mom, who spoke to her about natural remedies from their home in Benin, West Africa.

Using her scientific background, she formulated a body butter for her son based on the natural remedies her family had used for generations. "That was the first time I fully listened to my mother," she jokes.

She began giving her homemade body butter to friends and family and received positive feedback. Eventually, she formalized her cosmetological experiments into a bona fide business, taking it through a startup accelerator to create Simkha Biocosmetiques.

Just as she relied on word-of-mouth to spread the word about her body butter, she sees enormous value in it now that she's expanded her range of vegan, natural and cruelty-free products.

Growing her customer base locally in Quebec, she explains, has been important as she grows her business outside of the province and gets shelf space at major Canadian retailers. She must show the retailers that she's selling well locally before expanding.

For her, shopping local is about supporting homegrown businesses and knowing exactly where your products are coming from, which can add a meaningful layer to holiday giving.

Both Koucoï and Mi Tierra Latina's Zebadua also stress how supporting small businesses can form a chain reaction as they both rely on independent suppliers and distributors – both local and international – to make and source their products. By supporting one local business, you can in turn support many others.

And that positive chain reaction is something anyone can feel good about over the holidays

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