Despite Manitobans being encouraged to buy from local retailers online and use curbside pickup, a new survey suggests most order from chain stores and have packages delivered to them.
Leger polled 800 Manitobans online via Leger's online panel service LEO between Dec. 4 and 9, with results weighted accorded to age, gender and region. A probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of plus or minus 3.46 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, but this metric is not applied to online surveys.
A Leger poll found 53 per cent of Manitobans shop online and have purchases shipped to their home or workplace. Only 17 per cent buy online and use curbside pickup.
This gap in shopping approaches suggests most people who shop online don't buy from local retailers, said Andrew Enns, executive vice-president of Winnipeg's Leger chapter.
Curbside pickup is an option associated with small businesses that are unable to pay high shipping rates or maintain a delivery framework.
"I wonder how that’s working out for local retailers," he said. "Because I think the local retailers, the small independents, they really depend on curbside. I don’t think they always have the delivery apparatus to keep up with home delivery."
The issue is complicated, Enns said, and not directly the fault of the local seller or the consumer. Local shopping often means smaller teams that aren’t always able to meet the needs of buyers, and consumers aren’t always able to get what they need from local markets.
"Unfortunately, Amazon and the Joe Fresh and all these other places, those aren’t the questions you’re getting presented as a consumer," he said.
Local business owner Obby Khan, who co-founded GoodLocal, an online shopping service that provides delivery and pickup for goods made by Manitobans, said convenience is the issue.
Shopping from big-box stores just feels easier than shopping local, something he hopes GoodLocal will change.
"I think it's ease and convenience. I think people want convenience and the big-box stores make it easy for it to be convenient for people," he said.
The motivation to support local businesses is there, Khan said, but getting more people to shop locally requires an ideological shift.
"I think consumers need to be mindful of where we're spending our dollars. Convenience is great, but when we think about where our money goes, that's the icing on the cake," he said. "
"When you spend a dollar on Amazon, it's out of our local economy, it goes to some billionaire. When you keep it locally, it pays someone's mortgage, it pays their bills. That money stays in the local economy. When that dollar stays in the economy, everyone benefits from it."
Sapna Shetty-Heef, co-founder of Jaya’s Preserves, a mother-daughter duo who makes and sells small-batch preserves from West St. Paul home, says she competes against more convenient shopping options.
"It’s definitely more convenient for people to order online through big online conglomerates that can offer an easy one-click purchasing process, free and fast shipping and generally lower-priced items," she said. "Small businesses just can’t really compete with that."
COVID-19 hit Jaya’s Preserves particularly hard. Because it makes food out of Shetty-Heef’s home, its preserves could only be sold at craft sales and farmers markets — some of the first public events to be shut down due to the pandemic.
"At this time of year, we’re usually doing so many craft sales, because preserves are very popular for gift-giving," she said.
St. Norbert Farmers Market saved her business; it has set up an online platform for local food producers and crafters, and provides a curbside and drive-thru pickup service for customers.
"That’s been huge for us, or else we would have just stopped our business," Shetty-Heef said.
"The people who have been coming out and supporting (local) seem to be just going over and above in terms of trying to show their support." – Sapna Shetty–Heef, co–founder of Jaya’s Preserves
Even if the poll shows the number of people using curbside pickup services is low, Shetty-Heef said the response from those looking to shop local this year has been "overwhelming."
"What we’ve found is a lot of people are staying home, which is the message, and rightfully so in this uncertain time. However, the people who have been coming out and supporting (local) seem to be just going over and above in terms of trying to show their support."
Both Shetty-Heef and Khan said they believe local businesses will be affected by habits adopted during the pandemic, even after it ends, and many will have to look at adapting to make it easier for people to shop without going into a store.
"I think that this has really prompted a lot of businesses to explore that avenue a lot faster than they originally were going to," Shetty-Heef said. "I think it’s a matter of being flexible and adapting."
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.