About Amy Robinson

Keeping Downtown Vancouver Independent

BC Independents Losing Market Share

Late last year, we engaged Civic Economics to update the 2013 study they conducted on the market share held by independent businesses. The latest Statistics Canada data available shows that in the two years since, there has been a continued downward slide in market share for B.C.’s businesses. They are losing market share at a greater rate than the national average, slipping to 33.7% recently, maintaining the third lowest market share in the country. Business improvement areas, governments and others will need to step up efforts to support local businesses, and where possible, ease the financial and bureaucratic burdens on local businesses to keep our local economy thriving.


The B.C. Real Estate Crisis

Independent businesses are also challenged by B.C.’s red hot real estate market. As land prices increase the pressure to develop or renovate existing commercial spaces, businesses are having a hard time securing affordable spaces. New retail spaces in mixed use developments are often not designed for smaller businesses, are too costly, or are specifically seeking leases with multinationals that they see as offering greater security. The loss is to our local economy, with the associated jobs and suppliers that will suffer, but also to our communities – risking that our streets will look like every street every where – with the same formulaic chain stores.

Granville Street in Transition

Granville Street is in transition, and Southern Granville has a number of vacancies. Rather than leave the neighbourhood to the whims of the market, and the potential to populate the Street with multinational chains,The Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association (DVBIA)  is leading the charge to encourage independent businesses to see the opportunity that the neighbourhood presents. LOCO has been working with the DVBIA to assess any challenges to independent businesses locating on Granville, to catalogue available leases, identify opportunities to support local businesses and encourage more to locate to the area.

If you or someone you know is looking for a leasing opportunity, get in touch. Look for the results of our research in April 2017.


The Ketchup Wars, Local Sourcing & Your Business


Loblaw’s recent decision to stop selling French’s ketchup, due to poor sales performance, led to a firestorm of consumer outrage. The company reversed its decision days later in the face of mounting pressure that included consumer calls to boycott Loblaw stores. A&W then rode the wave of media attention, making public commitments to purchase French’s ketchup for its 850 locations across Canada.

What’s up with all the ketchup patriotism?

It comes from a 2014 decision by French’s to position its ketchup, which sourced tomatoes from Leamington, ON, as the “local” alternative. The move was a direct challenge to H.J. Heinz Co., which processed tomato products there for more than a century until it closed their plant in 2013. The closure put nearly 1000 people out of work, and affected nearly 50 tomato farmers, as 40 percent of all Ontario-grown field tomatoes were used by the Heinz factory.

French’s move into the void, purchasing Leamington tomato paste from a new co-packing factory employing 400+ people, created tremendous loyalty – despite the fact their Canada-bound ketchup is ultimately produced and packaged in Ohio.

The French’s story shows the complexity of this seemingly simple question: What’s a local product? It also shows the tremendous consumer passion behind it.

Consumers today more than ever want local

When a simple decision like Loblaw’s draws attention to the underlying issues, such as the jobs created by local products, this preference stands out even more. LOCO BC surveyed hundreds of Canadian consumers in 2015 and found that nearly 70 percent of consumers valued Canadian ownership as “most Important” or “important” when shopping. Over 50 percent were actively seeking Canadian-made products, and the same percent preferred to buy from companies in their province or city.

But how do you identify local products? Supply chains have become increasingly complicated and difficult to trace. As a result, there are various shades of local. At LOCO we categorize them by:

  • Ownership of the business (is it private and 50+% local owned?)
  • Location of production (is a product 50+% local made?), and
  • Where ingredients are sourced (are they 50+% local grown?)

The greatest economic impact comes when locally- grown ingredients are sourced for locally-made products, and sold by locally-owned businesses. That’s rarely the case. For French’s ketchup, locally-grown ingredients were partially locally-made, since they were processed elsewhere for a non-local company. Those locally-grown ingredients were the livelihood of the town, and Canadian consumers showed that they wanted to support that. However, the issue also called attention to the fact that the company was not locally owned, nor is the product fully locally-made. Not surprisingly, many have called for better product labeling.

Going Local is Good for Business

LOCO BC is working to help with that, by defining local for consumers and businesses based on economic impact. Further, we have been developing a Local Impact Assessment to measure and communicate the impact a business has on the local economy. Local sourcing is a large focus of our assessment.

Resource companies like Tech and Neptune Terminals have long had local purchasing practices, which contributes to their social license to operate in the communities where they operate. However, other companies are looking at local sourcing as a means to a more diversified and stable supplier base, to reduce greenhouse gases and to foster small and mid-sized businesses and grow the local economy.

We’re now working with the Vancouver Economic Commission (VEC) and progressive Vancouver companies, through online testing, to further development our measurement tool and look forward to supporting interested companies in “going local.” Interested businesses can contact us to be part of the development.

New Research Report: The Impact of Online Shopping on Local Businesses


Just in time for the 4th annual BC Buy Local Week, LOCO BC launches a new research report highlighting a growing trend in online shopping, how BC businesses are competing online, and what motivates online shoppers. Here are some of the highlights from the report:

  • Online shopping is a growing trend in Canada. Sales are expected to double by in the next four years, from $22 Billion in 2014 to $40 Billion by 2019.
  • B.C. retailers cite “competition from internet retailers” as one of two top challenges they face (tied for top issue at 64% along with “big competitors receive better pricing & terms”).
  • Very few businesses feel they are marketing themselves effectively. The majority of them are spending less than $200/year on advertising.
  • 2 out of every 3 dollars spent online by Canadians goes to a U.S. retail website.
  • Cross border online shopping reduces the amount of money circulating in the local economy by up to 32%.
  • The higher the volume of online purchasing a consumer does, the more likely it is that they purchase with chains versus local businesses. Those whose online purchases make up less than
  • 50% of their overall consumer spending are spending approximately equal amounts with chains as local businesses. However, those spending between 75-99% online shop with chains twice as often as with local businesses.
  • Consumers value local. Of Canadian consumers surveyed, 69% valued Canadian ownership as “Most Important” or “Important” when shopping. Over 50% of consumers are seeking locally made products and nearly 50% prefer to buy from companies right in their Province or City.
  • Consumers would spend more money online with local businesses if they offered convenient shipping, e-stores and a better consumer experience navigating their online stores.

Download the report

BC Buy Local Week Press Release


For Immediate Release

BC local businesses advised to step up online selling as Buy Local Week launches in BC
(November 30, 2015 – Vancouver, BC) The fourth annual Buy Local Week in BC kicked off today, celebrating the big impact buying locally has on the local economy and on communities across BC, and highlighting a new report showing that local businesses need to step up efforts to sell and market online.

“During BC Buy Local Week, we are celebrating local businesses and how they create more than double the economic impact of their chain competitors, but they need to ramp up efforts to market and sell online” says Amy Robinson, founder and co-executive director of LOCO BC, which coordinates Buy Local Week in the province. “Our new report shows that consumers want local, and yet those who shop heavily online are buying from chains twice as often. Although many of the most tech savvy businesses are using web and mobile technologies, few feel they are marketing themselves effectively against the online competition, so we hope our new BC Buy Local campaign will connect more local businesses and consumers online.”

Buy Local Week 2015 runs from November 30 to December 6 and has been proclaimed by the Province of BC and many cities and regions around the province, including Vancouver, Burnaby, Richmond, Surrey, New Westminster, Whistler, Squamish, LIllooet and Victoria. Other participating communities include Langley, Abbotsford and Tofino.

For every dollar people spend with local businesses, that money recirculates in their community and creates $2.60 of economic impact for their region. Consumers are being encouraged to shift some of their holiday spending to locally owned businesses, and to look for local grown and locally made products wherever they shop.

Throughout the year, participating local BC businesses will be promoting their local owned businesses, local grown and local made products with bright pink stickers and other materials to highlight their impact, using the hashtag #BCBuyLocal to amplify their efforts on social media. Consumers are invited to participate on social media by sharing photos of their local shopping and the pink stickers, and looking to bcbuylocal.com as a resource for BC products and businesses.

As part of the launch of BC Buy Local Week, LOCO BC today released a new report called “The Impact of Online Shopping on Local Business”, which examines how the shift to more online shopping has impacted locally owned businesses who are now competing with large chain stores across North America. Some highlights include:

●      64% of BC retailers cite “competition from internet retailers” as one of their top challenges, yet very few businesses feel they are marketing themselves effectively online. The majority are spending less than $99/year on digital advertising.

●      Canadian retailers capture only 1 of every 3 dollars spent online, and the more online shopping consumers do, the more likely it is that they purchase with chains versus local businesses.

●      Consumers want local, with 69% reporting that Canadian ownership was important to them when shopping, and more than half saying they seek out locally made products. About half of consumers report that they prefer to buy from companies right in their province or city.

●      Consumers would spend more money online with local businesses if these businesses offered convenient shipping, e-stores and a better online experience including easy navigation.

“The average Canadian consumer will spend about $1,500 on food, alcohol, gifts and travel this holiday season. If they shift just 1% – a $15 dollar purchase – of that spending to local business, their money will multiply local wealth and support stronger communities and more jobs,” adds Robinson. “We hope this report spurs local businesses to improve their online presence and e-commerce capabilities to capture more of this spending.”

For a copy of the report, visit www.locobc.com/resources. For more information about BC Buy Local, along with resources to help consumers find local businesses and products, visit www.bcbuylocal.com.

LOCO BC is a non-profit local business alliance in British Columbia working to strengthen communities, grow the local economy, and build strong, sustainable businesses. LOCO BC coordinates Buy Local Week, an annual celebration of local business to promote the contributions that BC businesses make to our economy and our communities. The goal of the BC Buy Local Campaign is to illuminate the local market, making BC-based businesses, products, food and wines more visible to consumers.


Media contact:
Carla Shore
C-Shore Communications Inc.
P: 604-329-0975

New LOCO Business Clinic Advisors: Focus on Carla Shore

Carla Shore works with C-Shore Communications, helping small to medium-sized business with communications and public relations. Carla is an award-winning, senior public relations strategist with talent for planning, coordinating and executing successful communications campaigns. Her ability to manage issues and plan for crises is matched by her skill in training clients on how to deal with media. Carla’s extensive portfolio has been built over 20 years, and includes news releases, newsletters, brochures, backgrounders, flyers, Websites, annual reports and news articles. She has provided PR support for LOCO’s #BCBuyLocal campaign for Buy Local Week 2014, and worked with LOCO members Vancouver Farmer’s Markets, Tacofino and others. Find out more about Carla on her LinkedIn profile.

1. What are your areas of expertise?
I help organizations with communications issues, including public relations, communications strategy and planning, media relations, spokesperson media training, plain language writing, issues management, corporate social responsibility and messaging for marketing, social media and communications campaigns.

2. What type of clients do you typically work with?
I’ve worked with non profit organizations, corporate clients, government departments and agencies, health organizations, and in just about every industry possible. I work with social entrepreneurs, start ups, large companies, and with many public institutions like school districts, libraries, health authorities, regulatory bodies, etc.

3. What are the business challenges you most often help  your clients solve/address?
In short, I help businesses work out what they want to say, who they want to say it to, and what they want to happen once they’ve said it. Then I help them work out which tools are the best ones to get those messages delivered.

4. How do you help?
I bring an outside perspective to the business, to show them what their messaging looks like to someone not in their inner circle. I help clarify their communications objectives and goals, their key messages, help define their target audiences, and help them understand which communications methods and tools will yield which results.

5. How can you help a business in a 1-hour business clinic session?
As a first step, I can help a business understand what their communications needs might be, what they could be doing differently, how to clarify their messaging, and what next steps would help them achieve their communications objectives. I can also help develop their messaging into plain language to ensure they are being heard by the right audiences.

New LOCO Business Clinic Advisors: Focus on Hillary Samson

Hillary Samson works with Samson Consulting, helping small to medium-sized business with their business planning and operational efficiency. Hillary works with clients to help them analyze and increase the health of their business through business plan writing, capacity planning, implementing policies and procedures, improving internal processes such as product development and project management, and establishing effective reporting. She has worked with LOCO members Boldt Communications Inc.Mala CollectiveTradeworks, Raised Eyebrow, Talk Science to Me, Lunapads and others. Hilary’s e-commerce experience was honed at her many years at Abesbooks.com (a division of Amazon). Find out more about Hillary on her LinkedIn profile.

1. What are your areas of expertise?
I offer support for operations to small and medium-sized values-based businesses, not-for-profits and social enterprises including:  tailored process and procedures, systems implementation, capacity planning, project and product management, operational growth planning, and reporting. I work with leaders in all industries, although I have a specialization in e-commerce operations.

2. What type of clients do you typically work with?
I work with values-based entrepreneurs and social enterprise leaders who are at some stage of change or growth in their organization, or are experiencing recurring issues in operations. (A sure sign a system is faltering!).

3. What are the business challenges you most often help  your clients solve/address?
When the organization is going through some sort of change, often growth, and the current way that they run their business isn’t working any more. It isn’t as effective or efficient as it used to be, or as they feel it could be. This could show up as: low margins; communication problems with staff, contractors and customers; a lack of understanding of the current health of the business; and/or lack of clarity on where the business or enterprise is heading and what the best next step is. I help identify systems that are not scalable and guide the leader to know how to gather information so that they can make better decisions moving forward.

4. How do you help?
I help clients with anything systems-based or internal facing (how the business is run). With my regular clients I almost always start with helping them create or refine their projections so that we can have a realistic understanding of how the money is coming in and going out.

I also analyze a business’ capacity, making sure that the team (or solopreneur) is focusing mostly on their high-value tasks, seeing where there is room for growth, or understanding where the capacity needs to change to accommodate growth and/or reduce costs.

I conduct operational audits to evaluate the business’ current processes, procedures, policies and systems, make recommendations for change as needed, and help with creation/implementation of new procedures or systems. Crafting or improving regular reporting is key so that we can continue to understand the health of the business and how any changes are working.

5. How can you help a business in a 1-hour business clinic session?
The best way I can help is if the business leader has a specific problem about how their business operates – what area of the business isn’t working well, what is causing recurring problems, what is keeping them up at night about how their business is running. I also help with what is the next step of operational growth: should I hire staff or contractors?; do I have the capacity to launch a new product or service?; as the business leader, where should I focus my time and what do I need to know so that the business can grow?

Bringing a recent income statement (P&L) to the session is particularly helpful.

New LOCO Business Clinic Advisors: Focus on Jonathan Vroom

Jonathan Vroom is a lawyer with Paperclip Law. Paperclip Law is a boutique firm for practical business and personal legal advice and solutions. They are a firm that believes in keeping it simple. Dedicated to providing clients with attentive, adaptable and approachable support, whether they need help with business and trademarks, real estate, or estate planning and estate administration. Jonathan’s experience spans business, real estate and estate planning. Paperclip Law works with LOCO members Mills BasicsDehoney Financial Group and others. Find out more about Jonathan here.

1. What are your areas of expertise?

Small business law and real estate including commercial real estate and estate planning. One of the areas of focus for Paperclip Law is food sector businesses.

2. What type of clients do you typically work with?

New or existing business owners that require assistance with either starting up a business or in the day to day operations of a business.

3. What are the business challenges you most often help  your clients solve/address?

Any legal assistance they require for the operation of their business. For example, drafting and reviewing contracts, incorporating, setting up companies, buying and selling companies, financing and investment.

4. How do you help?

I provide in-depth, yet straight forward advice on how to solve their legal issues.

5. How can you help a business in a 1-hour business clinic session?

The 1 hour business clinic session can be used for us to review their legal challenges and advise them on how to address those issues. We can either advise them on the spot on how to proceed, or refer them to a lawyer who specializes in that area of law.

New LOCO Business Clinic Advisors: Focus on Khalid Amlani

Khalid Amlani is a Chartered Accountant with Akeroyd Leung Amlani (ALA). ALA provides accounting services, tax planning & compliance, and advisory services to help clients make informed decisions on everything from incorporation to financial planning. Khalid has over 10 years of experience helping his clients make sense of their numbers by providing tax, accounting and strategic business advice. Khalid has worked with LOCO members Momentum Venture Partners, Ello and Miller Titerle and others. Find out more about Khalid here.

1. What are your areas of expertise?

Our firm’s focus is on providing tax, accounting, assurance and financial consulting to a wide range of businesses from start-up companies to mid-size companies. We strive to understand the clients short and long term goals and work with them to provide accounting and tax solutions tailored to their needs. Typically, this can include tax compliance, estate planning and financial reporting.

2. What type of clients do you typically work with?

We have years of working with businesses of all different sizes and industries. We have established our selves as a “go-to” firm for start-up and owner-managed companies that want to make sure that they are well positioned for growth. We also have a focus on professional practices in the medical field including doctors, dentists and other medical practitioners. Each client is different, and we provide custom tax and accounting advice that our clients require.

3. What are the business challenges you most often help  your clients solve/address?

We help our clients with any business challenge that may have a financial impact. Most often we are dealing with growing companies. As they grow, taxes become an important issue, so we work to manage all their tax filings and provide tax planning strategies to minimize their tax burden. Another challenge that faces growing companies is although revenue and net income may be increasing, cash flow never seems to keep up. We provide clarity surrounding the working capital life cycle and recommend solutions to increase cash flow.

4. How do you help?

Business owners have a lot of things to worry about – we try to make taxes and accounting NOT one of those things.  We handle their annual tax compliance needs and help them plan for the future.

5. How can you help a business in a 1-hour business clinic session?

The 1 hour business clinic session can be used for us to gain an understanding of you and your business and provide some recommendations on tax/accounting issues that need urgent attention and others that you should keep in your mind as you grow.



LOCO Online Shopping Research – Business Survey

LOCO Launches New Research on the Impact of Online Shopping on Canadian Retailers

LOCO has just begun a new research project into the impact of online shopping on local business.

Online shopping represents a large and increasing part of the Canadian economy. However, many of the dollars spent leak out of our economy to US Corporations.A 2013 report produced for Vancity reported that two out of every three dollars spent online by Canadians go to US retail websites.

Canada Post and Tenzing recently reported that:

  • The average Canadian currently spends $1210 online annually.
  • In 2014, the value of online shopping in Canada was $22 billion dollars.
  • Online shopping is expected to double between 2014 and 2019, increasing to a value of more than $40 billion dollars.

Please help us complete our research to assess the impact of these trends on local business.

If you own a retail business, please take our business survey. The survey takes approximately 5-10 minutes. Survey closes October 31st, 2015.

If you’re a consumer (and we all are), please take our consumer survey. The survey takes approximately 5-10 minutes. Survey closes October 31st, 2015.

Also, please help spread the word – send the url for this page to friends and business owners. Contact us for more info.

Saul Good Gift Co.




Fill in either of our surveys for a chance to win a gourmet local food gift box from Saul Good Gift Co. worth $300!