It’s no secret that this year has been tough for businesses, with small ones in lockdown regions such as Brampton struggling to stay afloat.
Fortunately for small (and big) businesses in all sectors (and especially those in foodservice, retail and hospitality), a Hamilton-based company is bringing bartering–yes, bartering–to Brampton.
As you’ve probably heard, bartering–the exchange of goods and services between two or more parties without the use of currency–is the oldest form of commerce and dates back to 6000 BC.
Now, a tech company called BarterPay is bringing it back at a time when businesses might need it most.
“We’re a social impact enterprise that helps businesses and charities get what they need [with bartering],” John Porter, founder and CEO of BarterPay, told QuickBite News.
“Every business has spare capacity, but COVID has increased that. Bartering is the oldest form of commerce, but people need to want what the other person has–the coincidence of want.”
So, how does it work?
Let’s say you own a jewellery store and have $20,000 worth of inventory you’re trying to move. You can list the jewellery on BarterPay in exchange for 20,000 Barter Credits. Those credits can then be used to purchase goods and services listed on the site from other members.
“Every retail store in Canada was sitting on idle inventory when COVID hit. Nobody was buying luggage and jewellery, so having all that idle inventory is like having value locked and not utilized,” Porter says.
“By joining a sharing economy, [business owners] can take a portion of their inventory and put it on the platform and it moves quite quickly and they get value for it. They might need a new website for e-commerce, and rather than dipping into cash, they’re taking the idle inventory and converting it into what they need today and not using cash.”
As for how specific businesses can use the service, Porter says that restaurants can barter gift cards or a catered meal for cleaning or e-commerce services and theatres can barter matinee tickets for a future, post-lockdown date. He also says that hard-hit businesses like hotels can barter rooms to get HVAC maintenance, new furniture, or other services.
“That hotel room is ‘sold’ at full retail value and they can offset a future cash-related expenditure. Right now, they’re getting nothing for that room,” Porter says.
“It’s a tool businesses can use right now to boost their bottom line. It’s a system of reciprocity. Businesses are in complete control of the amount and level they want to barter or trade.”
BarterPay’s member network spans across 20 regions, from Victoria, BC to Moncton, NB. As far as Ontario goes, BarterPay is available for businesses in Norfolk, Brant Norfolk Oxford, Haldimand, Niagara, Hamilton, Waterloo, Wellington, Halton, Mississauga, Brampton and York region.
Porter says that about 75 Peel businesses are currently on the platform.
Porter says that a business can open a BarterPay account and offer their goods and services–one credit equals $1–and use it anywhere in the ecosystem.
“When a business joins, they are connected with their own real-life barter coach who will help them offer up their goods or services on the platform to earn Barter Credits and work with them to help them use that credit to get something else from the system,” Porter says.
Porter says the company is growing in popularity, having recently partnered with Restaurants Canada and the Retail Council of Canada.
“The economy is depressed and businesses want to conserve cash and bartering is one way to do that.”
Porter says that BarterPay is working to unveil its Small Business Grant Program, which is currently available in Halton and Hamilton, in Brampton. As for how the program works, Porter says that local businesses who qualify can access a pool of $2,000,000 in Barter Credits.
BarterPay has plans to extend the Barter Grant program to all small businesses in the new year, so businesses can visit grant.barterpay.ca to be notified when the program launches in their area.
“If you own a restaurant, you’d put up $1,000 worth of your gift cards and earn $1000 credits right away and then BarterPay will match with a free grant of $1000 credits. You can now use the $2000 in credits for things like hood vent cleaning or menu printing or PPE or a new website, etc,” Porter says.
Earlier this month, BarterPay announced a grant program that will distribute a total of $5,000,000 in value to independent restaurants across Ontario to help them recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The restaurant industry is suffering tremendously right now,” Porter said in a statement.
“We want to do whatever we can to help them during this difficult time. Being able to obtain some things they need using their own gift cards as payment instead of cash is a big win. Now that we’re offering a grant as well, it makes it that much better.”
Porter says that BarterPay is also interested in helping charities navigate these difficult times.
“We want to get charities involved so we have the BarterPay It Forward Foundation that businesses can donate Barter Credits to and we take them and give them to local charities in all the communities that we’re in.”
Porter says that the business community has responded positively to the concept.
“We’ve never had as many businesses joining in our history than in the last six months. We’re grateful to serve small businesses and help them through the pandemic as much as possible.”
With files from Anthony Urciuoli