While the pandemic has been hard on everyone, it has been especially hard on small business owners, many of whom have had to close up shop at the behest of the Province.
When the pandemic was officially declared, the Province ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses.
As a result, many Ontarians had no other choice than to turn to online shopping.
As the pandemic continued, many people became accustomed to shopping online–whether it was the convenience it offered, or the ability to shop without risking exposure to the virus.
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However, because of this, despite the fact more businesses have been permitted to reopen now that Ontario has entered Stage 2, many businesses are still suffering due to the penchant many people have for shopping online.
In order to help small businesses facing dire circumstances, a pair of entrepreneurs launched a new website that aims to assist the mom and pop shops struggling to stay afloat.
Matthew Smith and Kevin Parker came together to create Near.shop–an online platform that functions essentially in the opposite capacity of an online store.
Rather than providing products online, similar to websites like Amazon, Near.shop provides shoppers with a list of options where they can find a certain product in stores, and help support local businesses.
“This business grew out of a desire to drive people back into local retailers’ stores,” Smith said in an interview with inthehammer.com.
“Our priority is small businesses, but we want to support all brick-and-mortar stores because they’re a cornerstone of local economies,” he said. “They pay taxes, they employ people, and they’re just better corporate citizens compared to the online retailers–which are basically mining wealth out of communities.”
The goal of Near.shop, according to Smith, is to remind shoppers there are local purchasing options available to them, and to nudge them in that direction.
“For example, if you’re on Amazon and you’re looking for a hammer, we do our best to interfere with that process and say you know you can buy this hammer 1.4 km away at Home Hardware, or 2.5 km away at Joe’s General Store… or whatever the case may be,” he says.
While Near.shop does provide a website where people can go to find the products their looking for in stores, according to Smith, most people don’t actually use it to find local products, rather, Near.shop offers a feature that rearranges search results for products to show people local options first.
“We have an extension for Google Chrome and a plugin for Amazon that brings local items to the top of the results page,” Smith says. “For Amazon, because there’s no local option at all, we have a button right beside the ‘add to cart’ button that shows users the in-store options where they can get the same item, and how far away they are.”