2021 Recap: TABIA and Roncesvalles Village win big at Canadian Marketing Association Awards

2021 was a year focused on helping businesses navigate the uncertain terrain of the pandemic, lockdowns, enhanced restrictions and more. TABIA and our member BIAs spent hours together over the course of the year ensuring policy was being developed and action was being taken. On top of this we also executed a number of campaigns both individually and together that received recognition at the 2021 Canadian Marketing Association Awards.

“2020 and 2021 have been extremely difficult years for our member businesses, there is no other way to put it. We have seen businesses close because of lockdowns, and other restrictions severely impact many industries across our BIAs. I am incredibly proud of the work that our team at TABIA and DMS have done as well as our BIAs for their tireless effort in advocating for and supporting their members. We made a significant impact in helping our small businesses and a few of these initiatives were recently recognized at the 2021 Canadian Marketing Association Awards. We are not out of the water yet, but as we continue to collaborate and fight for our businesses I am confident we will continue to see change where needed to ensure they are receiving as much support as needed to ensure survival.” John Kiru, Executive Director – TABIA, Founder – Digital Main Street

Roncesvalles Village

Businesses in the Roncesvalles village BIA (“Roncy”) were already facing challenges like many others before the impending impact of a second lockdown right before the 2020 holiday season.

Within this already grim reality, small businesses in Toronto deemed “non-essential” had a second lockdown imposed beginning Nov. 23 – the start of the crucial 5-week Holiday season. With many businesses making up to half of their annual sales during the holidays, and Canadians already planning to spend nearly 20% less this holiday season, independent businesses in Toronto were left scrambling to figure out how they will survive1.

The BIA knew something had to be done to support members in this critical time. The result was the “Not For Lease” campaign, a provocative initiative developed to drive Torontonians to shop local from the businesses in Roncesvalles during the holidays.

On Nov. 24, residents of “Roncy” were surprised to see more than 50 store/business windows covered with “For Lease” signs. This display forced them to contemplate life in the neighborhood without their favourite local staples that were facing unprecedented challenges.

At noon, in a coordinated event, the store owners ripped off the paper to reveal the core campaign message underneath: to resist the lure of Amazon and support independent retailers. We also had federal and provincial members of Parliament attend and speak to the media1.

In total, 44 press outlets ran stories, leading to more than 255 million impressions and heightened awareness of just how high the stakes are for small businesses because of Covid-19.

Congratulations to the Roncesvalles BIA on the great work done on this campaign and the recognition received.

The “Not For Lease” campaign was awarded Silver in the “Retail – Engagement” Category.

Toronto Association of Business Improvement Area’s (TABIA)

In our role as the umbrella organization advocating for our local BIA’s and BIA members, TABIA was focused on advocating and ensuring policy was being developed and implemented in a fashion that was beneficial to our members including advocating for changes to the rent subsidy, wage subsidy and other relief programs.

Along with this, TABIA was proud to launch the “Out-of-work mannequins” campaign in December 2020. The demonstration brough unused mannequins out into the streets with signs of their own to express the concerns of local retailers across the city.

The mannequins described as “out-of-work” appeared along West Queen West, the Danforth and other parts of the city. The message was crystal clear: without the support of customers – or better yet, a change in the provincial rules that allow big box stores to open while independent shops are closed – local businesses would not have survived.

The campaign was a massive success and resulted in a large media presence and spotlight being focused on the impact of lockdowns and restrictions on SMB’s across the city (and country).

Credit: Alpha Kilo Zulo

The “Out-of-work mannequins” campaign was awarded Gold in the “Retail – Business Impact” Category.

Digital Main Street (TABIA)

Last but not least our Digital Main Street program launched an expanded version of the ShopHERE powered by Google Program this year in conjunction with our provincial, federal and corporate partners. To date over 20,000 businesses across the country have been supported through the program.

This support has been critical in helping businesses transition to online commerce to ensure they can keep generating revenue when lockdowns and restrictions are in place.

The program was launched almost immediately in April 2020 when the first lockdowns were introduced and has grown exponentially since, now operating in over half the country and growing.

Businesses in the program receive free support to help create (or enhance and optimize) an online store, as well as training on how to launch, market and run their online stores so they have all the tools necessary to thrive. Partnerships have allowed us to provide additional benefits to businesses including but not limited to: access to mentorship and training through our partners at Google, Shopify, Square, Lightspeed, Facebook, Mastercard, QuickBooks and more, as well as:

  • free access to CyberSecurity software through Mastercard
  • discounted access to QuickBooks software
  • a free .CA domain from CIRA
  • an advertising credit from Facebook
  • and more!

“Building a solid online presence is more important now than ever! Not only does my site look professional, but it is easy to navigate and I’m confident that with all the help I’ve received [with ShopHERE] that I will be able to manage all the updates on my own.” – Jordan Clarke, Enamoured

The “ShopHERE powered by Google” project was awarded Bronze in the “Business – Business Impact” Category.