Canadian website takes on the online giant

Good job Ali! We need people like Ali all over the world to do the same and list small businesses so shoppers can avoid the killer and their ilk like Walmart, Target, etc.

Quote (The Guardian)

In cities and towns around the world, darkened shopfronts and shuttered businesses have become an all-too-familiar symptom of the economic collapse triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

But while small businesses and local retailers struggle with lockdowns and restrictions, e-commerce giants like Amazon have raked in billions in new profits.

That disparity – and the mounting inequity brought into focus by the pandemic – has prompted one Canadian woman to attempt a fightback.

“I just hate how much Jeff Bezos and Amazon are making billions off the backs of working-class people,” said Ali Haberstroh. “It seems to me they’re putting money over the wellbeing of people.”

Haberstroh turned her anger into Not Amazon, a new directory for independent Canadian businesses, which lists nearly 4,000 retailers in Toronto, Halifax, Calgary and Vancouver.

More than 350,000 people have visited the site, which not only helps shop owners, but taps into the growing frustration over the reach and influence of online giants.

Since the end of November, coronavirus restrictions in Canada’s largest city have meant that most small retailers can’t allow shoppers inside to browse their stock. Hours before the restrictions came into effect, Haberstroh got her idea to help out as many of her favourite local shops as she could.

The social media manager began frantically typing a list of every independent business she could think of to help share the resource with friends. After buying the domain for $C2.99 Haberstroh posted the spreadsheet online.

“At first it started off as a bit of a joke, with the name, but soon I really wanted to make it like Amazon, having everything in one place,” she said. “I didn’t want people to have an excuse not to shop local.”

With shops in Toronto deemed “non-essential” and closed to the public, many have feared that companies like Amazon, with their quick shipping and a dizzying catalogue of inventory, will prove devastating for struggling small businesses.

A survey from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business found that more than 80% of Canadians worried that their favourite local store would shut down because of the pandemic.

“We’re definitely gonna take a huge hit – and I’m sure most retailers are in the same boat as us. It sucks to close during our busiest month of the year,” says Aaron Doucet, co-owner of the clothing store Philistine in Toronto. “But we’re doing what we can.”

Ever since Philistine appeared on the Not Amazon directory, however, the store has seen a surge in traffic and sales. “People are really rallying behind small businesses right now,” he said. “It’s just so great.”

Haberstroh recognizes that there are some benefits in Amazon’s business model.

“For a lot of people, like those with a physical disability who can’t go to the store, Amazon’s a dream – you can get everything quickly and it’s affordable,” she said.

But for most shoppers and purchases, Haberstroh believes the high street offers more than enough.

Haberstroh has also aimed to showcase Black and Indigenous-owned businesses in the city. “Toronto is the most diverse city in the world, and I think it’s important that we reflect that,” she said.

Owners of the Green Jar, a Toronto-based home and cleaning supply store, told Haberstroh that online sales are up more than 500% since being listed.

“The reception from businesses has been absolutely amazing,” she said. “I’ve been getting messages that make me cry every day.”

Last Friday, a surge in traffic crashed the site, prompting the host to offer Haberstroh congratulations – and more bandwidth.

Haberstroh and friends have spent hours vetting thousands of submissions, and plans to add more cities in the coming days.

“I think I still have at least 1,000 outstanding submissions to look at,” she said.

“Small businesses have always made Toronto magical. They’re what makes this city what it is. And so I think we owe it to them to keep them alive.”