Joining CUI host Lisa Cavicchia for our first session of Main Street Action Week: Operational Trends and Actions for Retail Recovery – are presenter Lisa Hutcheson, Managing Partner at J.C. Williams Group along with Louroz Mercader, Manager at York-Eglinton BIA in Toronto; Dane Williams, Co-founder of Black Urbanism TO in Toronto; Darryl Julott, Managing Lead at Digital Main Street; and Judith Veresuk, Executive Director of the Downtown Regina BIA. This event is co-presented with JC Williams Group.
Main Street Action Week: Operational Trends and Actions for Retail Recovery
A roundup of the most compelling ideas, themes and quotes from this candid conversation
1. New roles for Business Improvement Areas & other supporting organizations.
BIAs are helping their members understand policies, protocols and how to access government support programs. Beyond providing information, BIAs are tracking and publicizing retailers in their areas, making sure they’re complying with the government regulations. Safety is a new key pillar of customer service and attracting customers and making them feel good about supporting the local businesses. In York Eglinton, Louroz Mercader was approached by his barbershop members asking how to do beard trimmings safely, and bar owners on whether their patrons can use pool tables. The BIA figured out this information and relayed it to members. In Downtown Regina, Executive Director Judith Veresuk created videos and informational posts and would point members to resources to help them ensure they were safe and in compliance with health protocols. Black Urbanism TO is focused on the long-term sustainability of “Little Jamaica” and the erosion of that culture and heritage in that community. Co-founder Dane Williams speaks to focusing on the needs of Black-owned businesses and developing creative strategies for working with the BIA, the City of Toronto’s Confronting Anti-Black Racism Initiative and other resources to help maintain the businesses in the area and help them thrive.
2. Communications, digital & OMNI channel.
JCWG’s Lisa Hutcheson supports businesses embracing OMNI channel retail. Lisa describes OMNI by describing some of the channels: E-commerce is a channel. Social media is a channel. Email marketing and so on. Being able to communicate and interact with your customer across all these different kinds of platforms and creating this the customer doesn’t just have to find you in one place. They can reach you in multiple other channels. Business Improvement Areas and other main street supports can help by creating business directories (see https://quinpool.shop/), social media experiences and helping businesses to get online. Digital Main Street provides great capacity building approaches to supporting the digital transformation of small business. Lisa Hutcheson points out the high cost of delivery services being problematic and recommends supporting ethical takeout and delivery options such as Montreal’s bike delivery service, Radish and Ottawa’s Love Local.
3. Going online is more than websites & social media.
Supporting businesses is about supporting the people behind the businesses. Digital Main Street’s Darryl Julott speaks to the importance of focusing on the people behind the business and not just the business itself. Business owners are dealing with personal issues related to the pandemic on top of trying to run a business. Darryl & his team work closely with business owners not just to create a website and ecommerce, but to show them how they can streamline operations, make their staff more efficient, use the digital tools and tech to really grow and manage every aspect of their business. But getting them to buy in can be challenging. Dane Williams speaks to working with business owners about using digital tools to help them focus on understanding and managing their business more efficiently so they can spend more time with customers and increasing revenues.
4. Thinking about vacancies strategically & creatively.
Lisa Hutcheson recommends using CUI’s vacancy tool to create an inventory of vacant spaces and then develop a plan for new kinds of businesses that could be new business models and work with those landlords to save businesses or find replacements. Lisa points to the examples of Artscape and the Center for Social Innovation, organizations that have taken historic properties and turned them into community assets with retail components and live/work spaces. In Montreal a church is being repurposed to have a community coffee shop available. Regina has begun documenting vacancies and are identifying what are the good fits for future use of these spaces. There is some exploration of using some of these vacant spaces for overflow of existing restaurants.
5. Building consumer confidence to bring people back to main street.
BIAs and businesses are focusing on: a) supporting their businesses to be safe and b) communicating to consumers that main street is a safe place to do business.
Note to readers: This video session was transcribed using auto-transcribing software. Manual editing was undertaken in an effort to improve readability and clarity. Questions or concerns with the transcription can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org with “transcription” in the subject line.
Lisa Cavicchia [00:00:18] Good morning, everyone. I’m Lisa Cavicchia, Program Director for the Canadian Urban Institute. You’ll notice that I am not Mary Rowe. We’re giving Mary Rowe the week off. So I’ve got big shoes to fill. But I got a little secret for you. I’m not wearing shoes.
I am in Toronto on the traditional territory of many nations, including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Annishnabec, the Chippewa and the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit & Metis people from across Turtle Island. We recognize that Toronto is covered by Treaty 13, signed with the Mississaugas of the Credit and the Williams Treaty, signed with multiple Annishnabec, nations. Having said that, we are very mindful of the history of broken treaties and the urgent need to work continuously towards reconciliation. And I’m grateful to have the opportunity to live and work on this territory. I invite you to think about where you live and historically the people who lived, where you are and how we might all work towards reconciliation in meaningful ways.
First some housekeeping. We are recording the session. We encourage you to use the chat function. And why not say hello and tell us where your where you’re calling in from and what is happening on your main streets. Early in the spring, CUI embarked on our Bring Back Main Street project. Prior to COVID, we had been doing work around downtowns and main streets and we were concerned about a myriad of issues that were impacting the hearts of our communities. Last week we launched our Bring Back Main Street Action Report that offers a set of specific proposals and solutions to sustain our main streets through the pandemic and beyond. And it builds on some extensive research & consultation that we have been doing and research with by CUI, as well as its many, our many partners across the country. We invite you to check that out. So there are something like 80 actions that are in this report and we invite you to adopt some of these actions, adopt specific actions and work collaboratively, collaboratively in your communities to work towards these solutions.
Let’s get on to the session itself. We are we have been working with JCWG for many years. And I have all always been impressed by the depth of knowledge that JCWG brings to any conversation around retail. I grew up in Rexdale in Toronto, and so I often ask JCWG about places the Rexdale mall where I grew up, Woodbine Centre and what’s happening? Why are there so many vacancies in the Beach? And what is OMNI channel? And they I’m always left with so many great, great discussions and answers. They know so much about the retail environment. They also know about how every main street has that weird shop that sells the old lady underwear or the faded pants. If you have any questions about those kind of shops, JCWG is the one to ask about that.
We have been working with JCWG on a solution brief that Lisa is going to present for about 15 minutes. And then we’re going to bring our panel into ground truth those findings, what solutions they are proposing and what that means on different kinds of main streets across the country. We have Judith, who is coming to us from the Downtown Regina business improvement area. And then we have Louroz. Louroz Mercader is joining us from York Eglinton Business Improvement Association, which is in Toronto. It makes up prt of Little Jamaica and they have been just devastated over the past couple of years because they’ve been dealing with construction of light rail transit. And we’re going to talk to him about what he’s been seeing through the double whammy of COVID & construction. Dane Williams is with Black Urbanism T.O. – they have been engaging with businesses along that along that stretch of Eglinton through the through the construction, but also talking with some of those Jamaican-owned and Caribbean-owned businesses about what they’re what they’re seeing and how they’re experiencing. Finally, Darryl is from Digital Main Street, and he is also just brilliant about helping those Main Street businesses to get online and all the different kinds of challenges that are that are around that.
I am going to now shut up, shut up and let Lisa do her thing. Please everyone except Lisa turn their camera and mike. OK, thanks. Go ahead, Lisa.
Lisa Hutcheson [00:06:40] So thank you so much, Lisa. It’s making it very confusing behind the scenes with two Lisas on a Zoom call. But thank you so much for that introduction and helping frame this up. Good afternoon, everyone, and thanks for joining us today. It has been my pleasure to work and have the opportunity to work with the CUI and to bring back Main Street Collaborative, this incredible group of resources that have put these solution briefs focus together. We were asked, as Lisa suggested, to focus really on the operational trends and actions for Main Street retail. My name is Lisa Hutchison and I’m the Managing Partner of JCWG, and we’re a retail consulting firm. We have an office in Toronto as well as one in St. John, New Brunswick. So main streets across Canada matter greatly to the livability, prosperity of our communities, towns and cities and the country. Our main streets are where we go to shop, where we work, where we do business, where we eat and we play. And this bring back Main Street solution is really focuses on that retail sector and the impacts of the COVID19 pandemic on our Canadian main streets. The brief was actually divided into three sections. And I believe there’s a link to the brief or there will be in the chat. But the three sections where the trends experienced by Main Street retailers during the pandemic. The challenges faced by retailers with that, with the whole reopening and the potential actions that local business organizations can take to ensure that main streets remain lively areas of commerce. This brief is really primarily targeted at the organizations that that are charged with helping businesses prosper on Main Street. We’re really hoping to cater to the key takeaways and actions that businesses can that are going to help businesses move forward through this whole pandemic.
In order to really develop the actions, it was important for us to review the trends and where we are at today. In the very early days of COVID, our team developed this four stage trajectory, kind of what we expected we might what the how this sort of an uncharted territory might actually map out for us. As it stands today, we’re really in this sort of third or the yellow recovery stage with an uncertainty about what legacy will look like. So obviously that first stage was that pre COVID, last March. We were already seeing digital transformation within the retail sectors and concerns about environmental waste and sustainability and so on. And then March hit and we really went into this crisis adaptation. Businesses were forced to shut down. Essential services were the only businesses that were operating. The regulations were kind of changing daily, kind of like they are today. And then there was all this in this this whole surge in terms of online shopping. And then, we got into these more relaxed restrictions. As , the provinces moved into stage three and now we’re still in that with the whole notion of hot spots and certain so this fluid one day to the next all driven by the WTO guidelines, this daily communication that we’re all sort of sitting waiting on the edge of our seat in terms of what the next issue is going to be.
Retailers are really if they’ve had to adapt these businesses along Main Streets or are really trying to figure out how to maneuver through this relaxed fashion shows and then the last pieces the legacy. So we’re thinking about the actions not only just to guide us through the pandemic, but also what’s the legacy of this going to look like? What’s the next normal? Not the new normal, but the next normal. And, what are going to be protocols that are going to have long lasting influences? What are design criteria? How are the consumers shopping differently? And what are maybe some capital and operating budgets that need to kind of look at that? So we’re going to jump right into kind of thinking about some of the key trends that emerged from the pandemic, because we’re going to talk about as it relates to the actions. So not to put a ton of emphasis because we all know what retail sales look like. But, again, it’s important to know where we’re starting from.
JCWG has a national retail bulletin we put out every single month. And it’s based on stats. Can retail sales and you can actually go to our website and sign up for free. It’s a completely free document that we circulate every single month. And you can see here in the early days, sort of inject in twenty nineteen and into early 2020. You can see that the data and Statistics Canada has been reporting and it’s been relatively stable over the years a plus or minus five percent. But then as COVID, hit in March and you can see in April when sales plummeted. And this was really the categories, automotive being one, as you can see here. But the all other retail was apparel and footwear and anything that was non-food related. The categories that did do the best was the food and pharmacies — they actually had an uptick. And as we know, some of that was due to panic buying and people not being able to eat out in restaurants. They needed to buy more food, where restaurant categories really took that plummet. And then we’ve seen the upswing, which is very positive, but we’re not quite sure what that’s going to look like. Are we going to dip down again? As, the hot spots and the fear of second wave. So we need to really understand this. And because of this deep dive, what we are this deep drop in sales, what we started to see was how retailers were really reacting. And it became about OMNI channel main streets. It became very quickly with the shutdown, the adaptation in terms of being able to reach. Multi-channel, and that means that the businesses are interacting with their customers through a mix of channels, particularly because they couldn’t visit the site, that their customers couldn’t visit their physical stores. So that meant retailers had to get online. And we saw that online purchasing skyrocketed and grew over one hundred percent record numbers in terms of online shopping. Many rated mainstream retailers didn’t have Web sites or email e-commerce capabilities. And so we saw them quickly trying to adapt into what kinds of tools were out there using social media and new ways, using marketing and trying to think about how that they can with limited capital to try and be able to promote their Web site and give it some exposure when they did get online.
We saw marketplaces like Amazon and Etsy that were, really starting to develop. This was certainly a struggle. it was a trend that we were seeing, but it was also a struggle for some of these independent retailers to get online really quickly. Some retailers were in a bit of I won’t say denial, but they thought that COVID may only last a couple of weeks. And as it as it moved on, retailers were really recognizing the need to really have time to adopt some of these practices, buy online and pick up in store. So many other retailers were using this opportunity, particularly those that had to come out and meet their customers on the curb. This has been a great way to create that OMNI channel experience. And then another challenge in terms that we recognize that businesses were facing in terms of trying to move to this only idea was that delivery challenges take place with going online, then being able to create an economical delivery platform.
There certainly are some restaurants that express concerns with some of the delivery services taking a really high percentage of their transaction in fees. And there are different kinds of delivery options that we can look to take these challenges and make them opportunities? So that’s just sort of sets the tone. I want to spend the next bit of time in this part of the presentation for the group times and talking about actions for Main Street retail recovery.
We identified in the brief five key actions that Main Street organizations can take to support the retail and the businesses along Main Street. The first is taking an expanded role, and this is expanded role as the source of information on government mandates and programs that are out there. The second one is creating a comprehensive OMNI channel. Main Street. So just like we’re talking about. And one of the key trends and we’ll take that a little bit further. The third is rethinking communications and advertising challenge strategies. These main streets have been really built on community building and festivals and events. What can we do in terms of communications and advertising and drawing footfall to these areas when we’re not supposed to encourage crowds? The fourth is preparing to deal with vacancies. And so, unfortunately, that is a reality. So how can we actually prepare for that? And the fifth is fostering creative retail redevelopment.
Taking an expanded role in terms of being the source for information and government mandates and programs. This is our first action that really being a local business organization. You can keep track of the local. And help your local business communities by keeping them informed through the pandemic, keeping information flowing. Help them understand the policies, the protocols and making sure that they’re obeying them and know how to access government support programs. Also take on an expanded role beyond providing information, including sort of tracking and publicizing the retailers in their areas, making sure they’re complying with the government regulations. Safety is really one of the new key things in customer service and attracting customers and making them feel good about supporting the local businesses. So this could be even putting protocols in place and knowing about certain kinds of inventory, keeping an inventory of businesses in terms of how they’re keeping up with the protocols.
Maybe that includes the use of audit of members and not at audits in terms of catching people doing something wrong, but using audits as a coaching tool to be able to support some of the businesses about how they can do better in terms of safety standards and best practices that are out there. Creating this comprehensive OMNI channel for Main Street. We talked about it in the trends. And this is something that we really think that local business organizations can do to ensure the retailers are aware of all the resources that are available and promoting their business and help them reach the goal. The business area of becoming an OMNI channel, Main Street. The first step is to go digital.
Lisa Cavicchia [00:20:48] Could you just define OMNI channel for us?
Lisa Hutcheson [00:20:51] Yeah, for sure. OMNI Channel is a retailer being able to communicate and interact with their customers through multiple channels. The physical store is one channel. E-commerce is a channel. Social media is a channel. Email marketing and so on. Being able to communicate and interact with your customer across all these different kinds of platforms and creating this the customer doesn’t just have to find you in one place. They can reach you in multiple other channels.
We have the honor of having Daryl with from Digital Main Streets here who will be able to speak to this, but really providing services and working with retailers to help them get their online stores up and going. And this is Digital Main Streets is a great example of one. Then there’s the idea of online business directories. So online business directories are really a starting point for local business organizations to introduce a directory with full and accurate list of business members that have websites promoting them online. A great example is one called Shop Quinnpool. Quinnpool is a main street in Halifax and they’ve bought this great online business directory is a great example of a Main Street online business platform. This is for retailers that are already online and maybe there’s platform development using these platforms for creating district specific online business marketplace. This is really emphasizing the shop local theme. The next is the whole idea of online direct district online marketplaces as well. And this other idea is putting caps on food delivery fees and establishing local delivery services.
One of the things that’s really difficult, particularly as it relates to the restaurants, is the cost of deliveries from some of the delivery providers – they take a huge percentage of sales. In Canada, there’s been a lot of discussions about trying to putting caps and establishing local delivery services. Several communities have seen a start-up of services that aim to reduce the cost of these apps and use the business district to provide delivery services. There’s a great one in in Montreal called Radish, another one in Ottawa called Love Local. And that one is sort of an ethical way to order takeout and delivery for locally owned and operated food businesses.
The next section was rethinking communications and advertising. This is really now the time to rethink our communications programs. Most local businesses, organizations have really different depended on events and festivals to increase street traffic. And so now we have to sort of say, how do we focus now our advertising activities and promotions to still create traffic, maybe not football traffic, but driving traffic to our retailers. What are creative outreach techniques to still engage customers? This is really critical.
And for most main streets now, the residents that live in the area is very much the target customer. We’re really recommending is the increased use of social media. This is regular high frequency posting. A minimum of once a day but three to five times a day is really almost best practice, but a minimum of once a day. We’re seeing some great some things starting to get implemented and we’re recommending hosting live events, using Facebook, using Instagram. People are really loving, being able to still interact and see their local businesses. Lots of them have want to be able to interact with them. There are these platforms that we can use to repost social media activities of local businesses. Some of them are doing amazing social media posts. So reposting on the main platform, building online communities and welcoming conversations. So really starting to try and open have more open dialog, a digitally. Expanding email marketing. So this is a time we can use email for call to action, not just generic information, but we can use email to create that call to action — people are at home. Using traditional mail marketing is back. We’re seeing we’re seeing it work, this whole idea of snail mail. Who would have thought that? We’re with customers at home. They’re looking for personalized communication and it can be very effective right now. And then the other idea is in terms of promoting and having co promotions. Various businesses can cross promote with one another. This can be really, really effective as well.
Preparing to deal with retail vacancies. So regardless of how much work is done by local business organizations to support your existing businesses. Unfortunately, some have and will be failing. We really need to be prepared on in filling these vacancies with new and vibrant businesses. And because once there’s a lot of boards up, it will make it more challenging to entice people to the area. We want to create an inventory of vacancies. If you have haven’t already done so, CUI has a great vacancy survey guide offered through CUI as part of this program. And you can start to work on that, start to develop analysis on retailer location fit. Have a plan for what certain kinds of retailers would fit in certain kinds of locations and work with the landlords and thinking about new kinds of businesses that maybe are just completely new business models and working with those landlords to save businesses or find replacements.
Landlords generally may not work with another group because they might think they’re competitors. But try working with them and starting really kind of thinking about new strategies and replacements is being really proactive in working with those landlords to in terms of thinking about new kinds of rent strategies for new businesses. And maybe that is looking at rather than the traditional model of just dollar per square foot, but maybe looking at just percentage of sales as a potential just to get some as a way to get some new businesses engaged in the area, developing pop up strategies. So for large spaces, so landlords that may be less attuned to markets and understanding kinds of new businesses that are out there, but maybe soon suggest thinking about different kinds of uses, and that might be for shorter periods, maybe think of organizations that look to organizations that curate pop ups. Breakup is a business that actually has created a model that is all about pop ups and then growing your own retail startup. So, are there hard to rent properties that maybe a not for profit or an entrepreneur that’s wanting a space to use to test some sort of prop up programs? This is something to think about as well. And then the last is looking for unusual places to foster retail. And landlords could think about new uses for some of these spaces or maybe there’s new kinds of opportunities that we can actually look to new kinds of retail spaces.
And that leads us to our last point, which is really about being using creative approaches. And so this crisis has really created the opportunity to foster redevelopment and main street areas, thinking about buildings or sites that maybe have outlived their usefulness or maybe are only used seasonally or once a week in thinking about them as potentially a catalyst that we could bring together new kinds of businesses that would bring customers to the area. Thinking about looking at high potential sites that might be used, then thinking about engaging the right partners. So identifying the site or project the local businesses and organizations that might be able to bring new partners to the area and then consider that mix of commercial and community uses. So this focus can be on commercial redevelopment. It could be housing. It could be other kinds of development organizations like Artscape and the Social Center for Social Innovation have taken historic properties in the past and turn them into community assets with retail components and live workspaces.
And there’s in the brief, there are several examples. There’s an example in Montreal, all of a church being repurposed as well as the example here. And this another example in the slide in terms of having the coffee shop available in the space. So that wraps up my portion. Those actions are detailed in the brief, and I really wanted to present them today for you to provide some context for the conversation with the panel that’s happening next, encourage you to pop in and download the full report to get more detail. And I’m done here. So I turn it back to Lisa to open up the conversation.
Lisa Cavicchia [00:32:19] Thanks. Thanks so much, Lisa. I’ll ask the rest of the panelists to turn their microphones and their cameras on. I think Ray in the chat asked about the PowerPoint. I just want to let everybody know that following these webinars, we posted the recording of the session. Any materials that make for PowerPoint, we will share that. We also share sorry. We also do the five key takeaways and we’ll put a link to all the resources that we are mentioning on this on this webinar. There was a question in the chat about who should be taking the lead on these actions that that Lisa from JCWG was proposing. I’m going to ask each of the panelists to reflect on what you heard from Lisa, what you’ve been seeing in your experience, and then to think about that. Including who takes the lead or who could take the lead on that? I want to start with Judith in Downtown Regina, located in…downtown Regina. It is a main street that’s focused on the commercial core of the city. And Judith has been doing a great job of communications and social media. So maybe you can touch a little bit on that. But, Judith, have you had any luck or any experiences with those kind of creative partnerships for dealing with vacant and underused space in your downtown?
Judith Veresuk [00:34:10] Well, we’re getting to that point where we’re having to deal with that. What I take away from Lisa’s presentation, it felt like what she was describing was almost a continuum where you’re starting. We’re starting small with taking that expanded role, getting that communication out there, getting the digital table set, if you will, for your businesses. And now we’re coming up on and we’re starting to deal with our vacancies. If any of you who are watching this right now, take a look at the vacancy survey that CUI put out, definitely do that. We did that here. And we’re beginning to document where the vacancies are and kind of going through the process that Lisa described identifying what are the good fits for future use of these spaces. I thought I saw something in the chat about potentially using some of these vacant spaces for overflow of existing restaurants. And that’s something we definitely want to explore. It’s not always a municipal responsibility. Sometimes a health authority thing where you have to make sure that your space is up to building code if you’re serving food. So those are challenges that we’re going to start looking at in the future.
But with respect to the question of who takes the lead? Coming from a business improvement district, we were the ones raising our hands. We seem to be the folks that can take a step back in terms of really seeing what the lay of the land is, when the businesses are struggling, when they’re having to lay off their employees, when they’re worried about rent, when they don’t know if supplies coming in or supplies not going out. They can’t see the forest for the trees. So that’s where the BIA comes in and we’re the ones getting that information on the on the government programs or the private programs that are out there locally and getting that information into their hands and hopefully prompting them to take advantage of those programs that are available to them. And we really are that source of information that can condense and consolidate and kind of filter out all the noise and say this is what you need to be paying attention to. And yeah, a lot of what Lisa described we’ve done to some extent here in Regina. So it’s really good to see that we are following a formula, even though we weren’t we didn’t know we were. So I feel like we’re on a good path here. And yeah, I guess things are a little bit different, too. I heard that you guys are all in Toronto and unfortunately heard that you guys are going into shut down again, which is a huge challenge. But here in Regina it’s been pretty steady with I’m getting back to normal cases are a little bit on the lower side here. We’re hoping that we can stay that course.
Lisa Cavicchia [00:37:20] Judith, how about the return to work? Are there. Do you have a sense of how many offices are you at? 50 percent return to work?
Judith Veresuk [00:37:34] We’re probably at about 50 to 60 now. Regina is the capital. We have a lot of provincial government. I believe the provincial government here was waiting for school to reopen and for cottage season to shut down. And so once that happened, we started to see a lot more folks on our downtown streets, in our downtown restaurants. I have to wait to get into a restaurant now, which wasn’t really happening during the summer. So those are things that are good signs. When we talk to the retailers, they’re seeing a lot of folks that come in with that have an I.D. badge hanging off their jacket. So we know that they are working downtown and getting away from their desk and going to the businesses. It’s good to see. But that really was the trigger. It was that return to work where now we’re seeing more foot traffic.
Lisa Cavicchia [00:38:30] Yeah. That’s right. And for a lot of cities, at least cities in Ontario, Quebec and cities even in Alberta, that’s not the case. I was just talking with someone from Downtown Hamilton the other day and they’re saying maybe 20 percent are back. I don’t know what it is in Toronto, but I’m sure it’s quite low as well.
OK, let’s go to Louroz. I want you to talk about your main street because you are a community-oriented main street. And for those who don’t know where York Eglinton business improvement area is, it’s in the old city of York.
Louroz Mercader [00:39:34] Yes, York Eglinton was in the old city of York before it became amalgamated with the city of Toronto. It’s a very resilient community. So like Lisa had mentioned, they’re building an LRT line underneath the main street here on Eglinton and our BIA has three underground stations under construction. So huge impact on our small businesses.
Louroz Mercader [00:40:09] When COVID hit in March, that was like the double whammy for our small businesses. You were asking who should be taking on these initiatives. So a lot of people came knocking on the door of the BIA and early on our volunteer board of directors created an economic recovery strategy for the actual street itself. And it had three main points. One was we wanted to focus on the place. And so our individual community and I think the one upside of this COVID pandemic is that it’s really brought the community together. People kept reaching out to us on social media about how do we support small businesses. And our biggest message to them, as always, is to take your dollars and go spend it in those small businesses.
A lot of our retail strip about out of one hundred and fifty retail shops — we have about thirty five barbers, nail salons, tattoo parlors. And we had a lot of takeout establishments that had a really loyal following already. I think they were really already prepared for this pandemic the way that they were set up. And then thankfully now this time around, with the second wave in Toronto, they didn’t close down barber shops.
They did put on restrictions. But really, the role of the BIA and that strategy that I talked about is we really wanted to create that sense of place for the community. I think we were sort of the one stop shop for all the information that was going out there.
We were finding that a lot of small business owners were confused because there were announcements from City Hall, the provincial government, the federal government, and like all these different programs that they could apply to. But we didn’t know how to apply or if they were eligible. We really try to break it down for them about. Here are some targeted links. And how can we help you actually apply for these different grants and funding opportunities?
It was really one on one working with each individual businesses to try to get that information out there to them. I think the other big role that BIA played, especially here in Toronto, there’s an association of BIAs. There’s eighty-three BIAs within the city of Toronto. And together I think we represent like sixty thousand businesses, which is remarkable. We were really a powerful voice in terms of advocating to the provincial and federal governments about targeted programs to support our businesses. And I think the biggest thing right now is the rent subsidy program for small businesses. Thankfully I haven’t seen a lot of vacancies so far. But I think we’re waiting over the next couple of months to see if more landlords will be evicting their tenants. That rent subsidy for these small businesses is really essential. We’ve been really advocating to government for that, but we don’t do it alone. We work really closely with a lot of community agencies and different groups. And I think the more people that rallied behind Main Street, the better. And I love to see Dane here with Black Urbanism TO, and he’s doing some great grassroots work, especially with Black-owned businesses. And that’s the sort of partnership that we’re looking to support Main Street.
Lisa Cavicchia [00:43:42] Yes! So not I want to ask Dane now to talk about to talk about his group’s involvement with Eglinton.
Dane Williams [00:43:58] So, Black Urbanism TO, what we’re really focused on is the Black community being involved in our socio-economic growth and really be at the table to speak to and amplify our community’s voices and needs an advocate for those. Our role is definitely as an organization, we really focus on amplifying the voice of the community through community consultation. A lot of the times Black businesses, as Louroz said, and for the businesses on Eglinton West like they are in crunch time right now. COVID-19 has exasperated the issues that were happening with the LRT. And it’s contributing to the erosion of that culture and that heritage in that community. So for us, it’s really about focusing on the needs of those Black businesses and then looking at creative strategies for working with the BIA, the City’s Confronting anti-Black Racism group and all of these different resources that we have within or around to try to create creative solutions to and ultimately contributing to long-term sustainability of this area. I think that’s really what we’re focused on, in the short term, the short-term goals and initiatives are important, but we’re really focusing on how do we maintain these businesses in the area and how do they become thriving businesses. Right. Not just hanging on by a string. So we’re trying to think about what the economy’s looking like. For me personally, I call it the home body economy, where individuals are at home and consumption is happening online through e-commerce. How do the businesses develop creative marketing strategies and allow access to their goods for this economy that we’re in right now.
Lisa Cavicchia [00:46:09] So why don’t we bring Daryl in now, who is been working with Digital Main Street and maybe you can talk about. Gosh, how to get those last businesses online and how to make it as easy as possible for them?
Darryl Julott [00:46:30] I don’t know for sure. Lisa, I will just say the funny thing is, though, that that sentence is kind of an oxymoron in its own right, because those last few businesses trying to get them online and easy. Usually it’s like two options, a magnet trying to push in the opposite direction. No, it’s just that the tough part is when we’re talking about those business owners, they usually fall into kind of one of two category, sometimes more. Either they are just doing OK. They’ve been running a business for 20 years, whatever. They just don’t feel the need to kind of go down that route or they just don’t have the desire. They just don’t really care. But either way, I always tell my team, we’re not a product-focused organization. We’re not dealing with a piece of hardware, a piece of software, we’re dealing with the most volatile commodity on the planet, which is people and trying to get somebody who in theory has been doing business a certain way for 20 years to fundamentally make a shift in how they’re going to run their business. Right. So that’s one of the biggest challenges. I think the easiest way to do it is to really step back and show them the full scope of what digital means for their business. Like when they hear digital transformation, that’s now that that’s the buzzword of 2020. Right. And I think eventually that will change. You ask any business owner who is not really deep down that rabbit hole, they’re going to say Website and social media.
That’s just that’s just where their head gravitate towards. You talk about that. But when you explain to them the things they can do with their backend in those processes, how they can streamline operations, how they can make their staff more efficient, how they can use the digital tools and tech to really grow and manage every aspect of their business. That’s where they really start to kind of perk up and they start to understand that this can really help me save money, save time, energy, effort, all of that. And then they start to really buy into the concept. But ultimately, it’s getting them to buy in. As opposed to just especially Digital Mainstreet because we’re focused on that capacity building element. As opposed to just a transactional hey, we’ll build your Web site or we’ll do this for you. That’s the biggest challenge we see. And again to build on Dane’s point right now the best way I can describe it is businesses are just dealing with life. They’ve got rent to pay. They’ve got kids who might have been sent home from school today because they had a runny nose like so on top of everything else. Now they’ve got all these things to take into consideration. For us, it’s really just about patience and making sure that we’re connecting with them on an individual level and just letting them know we’re there to support them.
Lisa Cavicchia [00:48:51] Dane, what do you think is that thing that’s missing, How do you think going digital can facilitate, like especially with COVID. Can you talk to me about the barbershop example that you gave me the other day was just brilliant, I thought.
Darryl Julott [00:49:06] Yeah, I think we need to think first and foremost before any decisions are being made. We need to fundamentally understand how these businesses operate first and foremost. I think a lot of the times would like things changing and shifting. We’re so quick to try to get solutions without foundationally understanding how these businesses operate in the past. And then when we’re thinking about the solutions embedding like they’re fundamental way of how they operate. So, for instance, we were talking with Lisa about barbershops in the new COVID environment. A lot of these business, a lot of these barbershops, they don’t have a landing website page that can also not only facilitate as a landing page, but as an appointment creator. People could book appointments for their barbershops and it could be a way to schedule. So barbershop owners are saying, OK, we only are allowed to three individuals in the barbershop for X amount of time and they can allocate those times to their patrons. And it also creates efficiencies, underlining efficiency. So, barbers will know that, hey, it takes me an hour and a half to cut these individuals. They have an understanding of how many appointments they can have into the day. It’s also creating data on how much money they’ll be making per day. They can take that data now and say – on Saturdays, these are our business busiest days. And then really focus on making decisions based off of the numbers. So it’s not only creating Websites for landing pages and again, as Daryll said just putting the businesses online. But it’s explaining to them that the decisions they’re going to be fundamentally making about their businesses are going to be data-based and data-driven. It creates efficiencies. They don’t have to be on the phone and wasting time having those conversations to be the driver of those initial front facing interactions and then getting the individuals in and then building the relationships that way. I think it’s about how we’re explaining it. The value of these Websites and being online to the businesses, I think is the is the most important thing. And then them seeing the value in it.
Lisa Cavicchia [00:51:42] I went to Eglinton on Saturday and I walked the strip where there’s all this construction going on and dust and for those businesses it must be so tough for them, it’s just so messy. But there are shops there on Eglinton and many of our main streets across the country that are inherently inefficient, some of these shops, like some of these shops, I mean, they kind of shouldn’t exist if it was if it was a question of the survival of the fittest. But they are what make our main street so amazing and charming and lovely. And I don’t want to lose those shops. Lisa, you have any comment on that? How do we keep the loveliness? Because otherwise, is it just gonna be chain stores, drug stores, manicure shops, cannabis shops? That would break our hearts. So how do we keep those lovely little inefficient, crazy stores?
Lisa Hutcheson [00:52:59] Yeah. Well, so a couple of things. So first, I actually got to chime in on the same thing that Dane was just talking about is using online, not just for just e-commerce. I was just talking to a jewelry, an independent jeweler that I work with that is in Atlantic Canada. And he was saying how the scheduler has actually been able to improve his customer service. His customers feel even more special being able to use this scheduling tool to come in. And they’re actually really loving that experience.
To your question. It’s an interesting thing because some of it is, like you said, maybe they’re a sign of the times that retail’s changed and they are interesting and that quirky, nice mix. But unfortunately, kind of to echo what Darryl was saying, some of them just don’t want to adopt the changes. And I think that I think that by thinking about sort of identifying the vacancies and fostering new concepts and new retail is that, I think our main streets will change, but it doesn’t need to mean that it’s because of chain stores. It can be still independents. It’s about kind of fostering and trying to encourage startups, trying to foster entrepreneurship to come to the main streets. So they may and likely will look different without having to be a brand or be sort of a big box that some people are fearful of coming toward Main Street. So it’s trying to create those kinds of environments because I think that we’re seeing all kinds of new businesses erupt. And I think we’re going to continue to see more new models and new businesses and encouraging that coming to Main Streets is a great way to do so. The other advantage, even with Main Street. So, when we can’t shop in a mall you can shop on Main Street because it’s close to home. You can walk there. You don’t take transit there. And you’re not an enclosed you can walk in and out just at that retailer. So there are lots of advantages. And I think it’s really embracing those and encouraging the entrepreneurship and people to think about creativity and creative ways. And again, just that the digital aspect is not just thinking of it as just e-commerce.
Lisa Cavicchia [00:55:47] Yeah. Maybe Louroz and Judith can chime in about creating that sense of confidence to come back to our Main Street. Businesses are safe places to come back to you. I’ll ask Louroz first and then Judith.
Louroz Mercader [00:56:03] Yeah, that’s a great. And that was part of the strategy that we had is how do we ensure that people felt safe and confident to go back onto Eglinton and to support the businesses. So the first strategy was to work with the small businesses one on one. Again, I think it was getting them the right information for the right type of shop that they had. The public health authority had different guidelines for each individual sector. If you were a hair salon, you had to follow certain rules. And so we took the time to actually go and educate those businesses one on one, that these are the processes that you had to actually take, that you had to train your employees a certain way. We actually printed out the guidelines for them because the computer literacy of some of our businesses are not always there and may not know how to navigate the city’s Website. We actually gave a guide to them. And then the other thing is, PPE equipment is very expensive. And so that was one of the things that we did is we actually did sort of a COVID safety kit that we distributed to all our small businesses – masks, hand sanitizers, gloves. And it also had all the different safety posters that the Toronto Public Health said that each businesses had to post on and further our establishment. It was really it was a lot of work. It was a heavy lift to try to go door to door individually and talk to businesses about how to do things. I got a lot of questions about, OK, if I was going to do beard trimmings, like, how do I do that if they have to keep a mask on? I don’t know what the answer was, but I was able to connect them to the right public health official to get those answers done. Or like a bar needed to know whether or not they can use a pool table or like what are the safety mechanisms around there. So answering those sort of questions from individual store owners really built the confidence of our store owners to actually be ready to take on the public. And then I think the city of Toronto has been really great in terms of educating the public about what to expect and having the safety protocols in place. So everybody seems to be really good in terms of coming back and actually supporting the small businesses. But it’s an ongoing thing. And I think as we’ve seen here in Toronto recently, we just went back into another lockdown. So we have to keeping mindful and we need to keep connecting and educating our small businesses.
Lisa Cavicchia [00:58:35] OK. We only have a couple of minutes left, so, Judith, I want you to very quickly address that and then I want to go to Daryl.
Judith Veresuk [00:58:43] We did everything that Louroz did in safety packages, welcome back packages. We also filmed a lot of video with the businesses, the push out through social media showing how a massage is now done and obviously all kosher on my hand. But how to get chiropractic services, eyeglass fittings, all those sorts of things. So we have a selection of videos to increase that safety, because that was the feedback we got from the general public. They wanted to know that they were safe and they could feel confident going into these businesses. We really tried to pivot all of the marketing pieces to this is how you feel safe. This is what our businesses are doing to make you safe in their business.
Lisa Cavicchia [00:59:33] That’s great. Daryll, I want to go back to about more than just selling online. It’s also the back end piece.
Darryl Julott [00:59:47] It’s everything, right? Like a big point of what we do, like we do a lot of work for just a very simple example of helping businesses convert their accounting processes and procedures to the cloud, right, coming up with quick books like the amount of businesses we work with that are still doing things manually, it’s mind boggling. But I think to build on that, it’s also as much of the full spectrum of what can be done, but also just doing it in a way where we can lead a horse to water. But you can’t force me to drink type thing. Right. I always say we’re as concerned with the business owner, if not more concerned with the business owner than we are with the business. Because of that business owner understands how to update their Web site to post on social and how to do X, Y, Z. That in turn we’ve done our job of building a stronger business. That owner is gonna be able to do it, right?
Lisa Cavicchia [01:00:36] That’s a great point. We have to wrap it there. This was just not enough time. I want to thank all my panelists. You guys were great. And I want to make when I grab each of you and thank you for this and get from you. So we’re posting everything online. Don’t worry. There’s been amazing stuff going on in the chat, which we’re also going to be posting. Thank you, JCWG for working on that solution brief and for the presentation today. We have a whole week of bring back Main Street events. So join us tomorrow. The next day. The next day. The next day. Tomorrow’s event is also about retail. But more from the policy point of view. And we even have somebody from Montreal and Montreal has been doing insane things around economic recovery that’s not just about the businesses, but it’s also about arts and cultures and how they organize street. So I really want you to join for that. And also, they’ve just been knocked down with the second wave. So it’ll be interesting to see what’s happening on that front. Thank you, everybody. This has been terrific. And yeah, join us. Join us again and check out our website for more information about Bring Back Main Street. Cheers, everyone.
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From Canadian Urban Institute: You can find transcripts and recordings of today’s and all our webinars at https://canurb.org/citytalk
12:02:11 From Canadian Urban Institute : You can find transcripts and recordings of today’s and all our sessions at https://www.canurb.org/citytalk
12:03:12 From Canadian Urban Institute : https://bringbackmainstreet.ca/action-report
12:03:18 From Carol-Ann Chafe to All panelists : Hi all. I am Carol-Ann from Access 2 Accessibility in Mississauga, Ontario
12:06:14 From Canadian Urban Institute : Welcome attendees! Where are you logging in from?
12:06:30 From Canadian Urban Institute : Louroz Mercader
12:06:45 From Gregory Murphy to All panelists : Oshawa. Hi, I’m Greg Murphy at Durham College.
12:06:46 From sue uteck : Hello from sunny Halifax!
12:07:10 From Wilma Wotten : Wilma Wotten from Scugog Ontario
12:07:24 From Carlos Delgado to All panelists : Hello from Washington DC
12:07:37 From Canadian Urban Institute to Lisa Hutcheson(Privately) : Looks great!
12:07:39 From John Stephenson : Hello from Thunder Bay, Ontario
12:08:02 From Chris Fraser to All panelists : Hello from Liberty Village in Toronto
12:08:03 From Debi Croucher to All panelists : Hello from Downtown Windsor
12:08:54 From Jason Syvixay : Hello from Edmonton, AB, Treaty 6.
12:09:18 From Jonathan Giggs : From Port Credit in Mississauga
12:09:30 From Canadian Urban Institute : Operational Trends and Potential Actions for Main Street Retail Recovery https://bit.ly/373kzWG
12:09:55 From Judy Risebrough : Judy Risebrough from Townshop of Uxbridge
12:10:20 From Andrea Betty : Hello from Penetanguishene Ontario
12:10:34 From Lisa Larson : Another Edmontonian here
12:10:37 From Elaha Musakheel to All panelists : Hello from Waterloo, Ontario
12:10:41 From Brandon Slopack to All panelists : Brandon Slopack from Bradford West Gwillimbury
12:10:52 From Andrea Connelly-Miele : Hello from St. Catharines
12:11:01 From Canadian Urban Institute : Welcome new joiners! Just a reminder to please change your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees” so everyone can see your comments.
12:11:43 From Carlos Delgado : Hi all. Greetings from Washignton DC
12:11:58 From Dallas Clowes : Hello from West Kelowna, BC!
12:12:29 From Ralph Cipolla to All panelists : hello everyone from Orilliaontario
12:12:37 From Olu Villasa : Greetings from Toronto!
12:12:54 From Denny Warner : Joining you from Sidney, BC on Vancouver Island
12:13:15 From Ranon Soans to All panelists : Hello from Edmonton!
12:13:34 From Maryam Yaghoubi to All panelists : Hello from Cliffside Park, New Jersey!
12:13:35 From Diego Almaraz : hi from Waterloo, ON!
12:13:41 From Ranon Soans : Hello from Edmonton!
12:19:05 From Gregory Murphy : I said hello to the panelists, but didn’t realize it wasn’t visible to all of you. I’m Greg Murphy from Durham College in Oshawa. Good afternoon, Everyone.
12:19:53 From Lisa Cavicchia, CUI : Great to see people from all over — big & small main streets!
12:20:25 From Canadian Urban Institute to Lisa Cavicchia, CUI (Privately) : Loved your land acknowledgement today!
12:20:54 From Debi Croucher to All panelists : Will the PPT be made available to attendees?
12:21:00 From Ralph Cipolla : Hello from Ralph Cipolla Orillia Ontario the sunshine city
12:21:49 From Canadian Urban Institute to Debi Croucher and all panelists : We can do better than that – here’s the full report: Operational Trends and Potential Actions for Main Street Retail Recovery https://bit.ly/373kzWG
12:22:02 From Abby S : thank you for that!! thought I kissed the definition.
12:22:06 From Abby S : missed
12:22:08 From Abby S : lol
12:22:50 From Debi Croucher to All panelists : Much appreciated but the PPT would be really helpful to share with Board & members to give them a quick snapshot and inspire them to read the report
12:23:20 From Canadian Urban Institute to All panelists : I’m sure Lisa would be happy to share.
12:23:50 From Canadian Urban Institute to Debi Croucher and all panelists : I’m sure Lisa would be happy to share.
12:24:05 From Abby S : does the omni channel approach or the online approach address the cost of street front real estate? or will it accelerate the loss of physical space ? one can supply online from a less expensive warehouse.
12:24:42 From Ray Tomalty to All panelists : Could the speaker specify who should be responsible for undertaking these initiatives – e.g., local business associations, individual businesses, municipalities, tech providers, start-ups?
12:28:50 From Abby S : to what extent are landlords supporting these initiatives by creating flexible rental structures?
12:29:15 From Ron Hooper to All panelists : I really don’t see much faith being directed to local newspaper advertising. Is that falling to the wayside?
12:29:48 From Canadian Urban Institute to Lisa Cavicchia, CUI (Privately) : What’s the vacancy tool she’s talking about? Happy to post a link to that, but I can’t find it.
12:30:28 From Jason Syvixay : Thoughts on using vacant storefronts as overflow for existing restaurants and retail? How can cities work towards relaxing relevant bylaws or regulations to facilitate this?
12:31:39 From Canadian Urban Institute : Vacancy Survey Guide and other tools: https://bringbackmainstreet.ca/data-tools
12:32:47 From Abby S : are you seeing any retailers joining together to share space? not doesn’t competitors but complimentary businesses?
12:33:29 From Abby S : *omg sorry about autocorrect. not direct competitors.
12:33:48 From Canadian Urban Institute : Main Street Action Week! Check out our Main Street Design Challenge Playbook https://bringbackmainstreet.ca/main-street-design-playbook
12:34:27 From Ranon Soans : thoughts on overcoming challenges in encouraging more traditional retailers to take creative approaches and modern marketing?
12:35:04 From Brandon Slopack to All panelists : Does anyone know of potential redevelopment partners for more rural heritage properties (esp. churches, barns, heritage homes)? Not for profit or otherwise.
12:36:04 From Lanrick Bennett to All panelists : Wonderful presentation Lisa. Hoping BIA’s here in the East End of the city are listening/watching. Things aren’t going back to normal. The hashtag #BuildBackBetter is more real than we know. Have to be nimble. Have to be open to pivot. Have to brave to put forth new ideas or bring back old ones that we didn’t think we’d need.
12:36:23 From Ralph Cipolla : How can municipalities help
12:37:47 From Canadian Urban Institute : We love your comments and questions in the chat! Share them with everyone by changing your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees”. Thanks!
12:40:59 From Abby S : can we hear from the other two panelists too?
12:44:29 From Carlos Delgado : Commercial eviction is a big concern in several US cities.
12:44:57 From Ingrid Barrett to All panelists : How many business has gotten grant in the York Eglinton area since COVD?
12:48:02 From Ray Tomalty : I missed the first few minutes of the webinar. Was any information presented on how badly Covid has affected mainstreams in Canada – .e.g., vacancies, bankruptcies, sales? I saw the graph showing Canada-wide sales of food, autos, and other which showed that food and other is up above pre-Covid levels – only automotive is down – but there aren’t that many car dealerships on mainstreams. So this data didn’t reveal a crisis in mainstream businesses. Is there data on how bad the situation is?
12:49:08 From mario mammone : Hello from Dorval, Quebec, I have been in real estate sales the last 30 years, as an agency owner since 2008. The city I live in Dorval which is next to a major airport has had major vacancy before the covid-19 image now. A major problem he is the operating cost, taxes, heating, general upkeep of older building, operating cost and rent are almost equal! Yes condos have been popular on commercial sites but this market will be saturated soon with job losses! I think co-op business will be the future…share commercial spaces, tax reduction movement must be active to make it viable for the merchants and cities and building owners. What I see if that many merchants that are closed to retirement will be closing fr good, also whoever has a lease coming due also has to decide to renew or close! Comes down to what worked in the past was struggling and now we are here! Online is great but the marketing traffic cost to make the sales traffic is not easy as we think! best regards and be safe Mario Mammone
12:49:14 From Canadian Urban Institute to Ray Tomalty and all panelists : Ray, we will post the slides, the report and the recording along with other materials.
12:50:34 From DeeDee Nelson : Great questions and wonderful commentary by panelists and attendees.
12:52:46 From Vicki Scully : i love the recommendation of coops bringing people together to salvage key businesses. support is available through BC COop Association, Worker COop Assoc etc. Critical also is the use of larger floor plates for many small businesses but this must be allowed through City level zoning. For example Seattle has used large historic buildings for flea markets/ resale businesses with a number of vendors and one check out.
12:53:03 From Alanna Morton : Looking forward to introducing the Digital Mainstreet program to Edmonton businesses starting this week!
12:53:17 From DeeDee Nelson : Love that Vicki!
12:53:46 From Ranon Soans : Great point about main street authenticity!
12:54:12 From Carlos Delgado : So true Lisa. How do we keep the stores that make neighborhoods, communities and main street as special they should be.
12:54:24 From DeeDee Nelson : Yes!!
12:54:33 From Ray Tomalty : Mainstreets not mainstream. Arrgh – autocorrect.
12:55:53 From Canadian Urban Institute : Operational Trends and Potential Actions for Main Street Retail Recovery https://bit.ly/373kzWG
Register for other sessions this week at: https://bringbackmainstreet.ca/action-week
12:56:07 From Kristy Kilbourne to All panelists : We are trying to protect for this on the residential side through inclusionary zoning, affordable housing incentives, etc. Do we need to do the same on the commercial side so small businesses don’t get priced out?
12:56:54 From Mary Rowe : Hi Vicki and Mario – can we highlight examples where different forms of tenancy and ownership are working already? co-ops? social purpose real estate? is there a commercial land trust model?
12:58:01 From Vicki Scully : https://www.socialpurposerealestate.net/
12:58:24 From Mary Rowe : maybe government or a BID/BIA takes the ‘master’ lease of ground floors and then sub-lets to smaller businesses ?
12:58:51 From DeeDee Nelson : Thank you Mary I really would love to see more of that.
12:59:37 From Carlos Delgado : Yes to Mary’s point. That would be a great innovative strategy and the right thing to do
13:00:31 From Vicki Scully : Another idea is to work with landlord plan next 5 years and see this will pass – and maybe engage in new uses/ % of sales for next 1 year then return to normal rents. also introduce efficiency tips for them to save money on overhead. use of spaces at all times of day – possibly by different users.
13:01:01 From DeeDee Nelson : Yes, give them a leg up Vicki.
13:01:25 From DeeDee Nelson : Similar to rent to own concept,
13:01:26 From mario mammone : Essential services will always be needed, banks will finance essential business before any non essential business! So cities will to identity what is an essential service what is best on line! and plan the services the citizens need as services.
13:01:55 From Mary Rowe : great discussion gang!
13:02:05 From Ksenia Zverev : Thank you!
13:02:07 From Jeff Palmer : Thanks from Winnipeg!
13:02:15 From Debi Croucher : Thanks!
13:02:20 From Vicki Scully : Thanks for bringing focus to this all week!
13:02:20 From Shahinaz Eshesh : Thank you from Brampton!
13:02:23 From DeeDee Nelson : Thank you everyone!
13:02:24 From Ranon Soans : thanks, this was great!
13:02:31 From Mark Garner : thanks CUI