This bulletin is current up to close of business on June 11,
2020. As circumstances remain fluid, please check with in with your
usual Blakes contact for any updates.
Retail e-commerce is surging during the COVID-19 pandemic, but some businesses have been left behind.
On June 11, 2020, the federal and Ontario governments announced an investment of C$57-million to expand a Toronto-based program called Digital Main Street; this will help up to 22,900 small businesses across southern Ontario move online in an effort to recover from diminished revenues and prepare to reopen. The funding will allow businesses to reach more customers, boost sales and generate co-op jobs for more than 1,400 students.
EXPANDING THE DIGITAL MAIN STREET PLATFORM
Created by the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas, Digital Main Street is intended to assist entrepreneurs boost their digital presences and provide digital marketing training. The Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev) will provide C$50-million from its share of the C$962-million Regional Relief and Recovery Fund, which was announced in April. The Government of Ontario will provide C$7.65-million. The funding allows businesses to take advantage of the following new programs to support their digital transformation:
- ShopHERE powered by Google will hire students to launch online stores for businesses that previously did not have the capacity to do so themselves
- Digital Main Street Grant will help small businesses be more effective in the digital sphere by adopting new technologies. Municipalities, chambers of commerce and business improvement areas can apply for a Digital Service Squad grant to provide personalized one-on-one support
- Future-Proofing Main Street will provide digital services that help existing main street firms adapt to changes in their respective sector. These firms will be able to create new online business models and implement e-commerce marketing strategies
- Recovery Activation Program, operated through the Toronto Region Board of Trade, will now be offered province-wide and at no cost to businesses. The program offers a broad range of services, including consulting around supply chains and customer acquisition
ADOPTING DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES TO RECOVER FROM THE PANDEMIC
According to the Government of Ontario, about 60 per cent of
Ontario's small businesses have a website, and only seven per
cent have an online payment solution. Canadian businesses are
digitally two years behind their U.S. peers. During the COVID-19
outbreak, many businesses struggled to shift operations online. The
expanded Digital Main Street platform will enable small businesses
to adjust to the reality of conducting business during the pandemic
and going forward. In addition to this expansion, Ontario is
investing an additional C$150-million in rural broadband to allow for
local businesses to go digital.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.