Local businesses switch to online shops to stay afloat during COVID-19 pandemic

Local businesses switch to online shops to stay afloat during COVID-19 pandemic
WatchStores across the Island have been closing their doors, but that doesn't mean we've stopped buying. People are turning to online shopping sites like Amazon. Now, to make sure they survive this pandemic, local businesses are going online as well. Jasmine Bala has more.

Shopping online has quickly become the new normal during the COVID-19 pandemic and local stores are joining the trend to keep their businesses afloat.

Dutch Bakery in Victoria just launched its online shopping platform where customers can place orders for baked goods and pay for delivery.

“I would come in every day, spend a couple of hours putting orders together and then spend a couple hours on the road, driving all around the city,” said Michele Byrne, co-owner of the family-owned business.

“We’re doing this to keep our business going so that we can bring our employees back and we will have a functioning business [when this is over].”

“A lot of our customers aren’t leaving the house, which is understandable. We are doing doorsteps, so we have the bags — everything is packaged in the bags, sealed — and we can just leave them at the door so we’re not having any contact.”

The e-commerce market is a playing field typically dominated by big chain stores and companies, like Amazon, Best Buy and Walmart. For small businesses like Dutch Bakery, going online has become somewhat of a requirement to make sure their store survives the pandemic.

“Online presence is going to change tremendously,” said Steve Pearce, president of Think Local First. “There’s going to be some time where people are not going to want to be in groups, in large crowds, amongst a lot of people, so this is going to be a lot longer of a process for these businesses that are retail, restaurants, whatever it may be.”

As the demand for e-commerce goes up, so do the wait times for shipping. Even at the local level, the couriers have their hands full.

“There’s definitely a backup,” said Al Hasham, president and CEO of Maximum Express Courier & Freight. “We’re trying to get to the deliveries that are the most essential for people, especially like hand sanitizer, prescriptions.”

Although these packages pass through many hands before they reach their final destination, Hasham said they’re still safe to handle once they get to you.

“Before we even unload and load them, we’re making sure that they’re wiped down,” he explained. “They’re handled with gloves. They’re actually sanitized before they go into the truck. And then once we unload them, the customers are actually very well aware of the fact that, before they even get the box — whether its cardboard, whether its paper — that they’re giving it either 36 to 72 hours before they actually deal with them.”

The drivers are using masks and gloves and dropping off packages by knocking on doors and leaving them on front steps. Instead of getting someone to sign for the delivery, they call ahead of time and make a note of who will be accepting the package.

These are just some of the ways Hasham said Maximum Courier is making sure people are getting the deliveries they need while making sure everyone stays safe.

Jasmine BalaJasmine Bala

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