About Amy Robinson

City of Vancouver Should Consult Local Pioneers for Advice on Paper Cup Waste

There’s been a lot of talk about the amount of paper cup waste in Vancouver’s garbage bins lately-they are 22% of the garbage stream, and takeout materials all together (cups, containers and shopping bags) account for almost half of the litter found in Vancouver. Every week Vancouverites trash 2.5 million paper cups![1]

Earlier this year City Councillors voted unanimously to start public consultation on policy options like restricting paper cup use, fees on paper cups, discounts on reusable takeout containers, or requiring businesses to prompt their customers to bring in reusable items. City staff will come back from consultations this fall.[2]

Local Zero Hero Salt Spring Coffee is a well-known sustainability champion that has been working

hard to reduce the amount of paper cup waste that the company and its customers contribute to the waste burden for years. Since 2011 SSC has been tracking its waste, and in 2016 began reporting its sustainability metrics online. Owner Mickey McLeod attributes the company’s culture to the island mentality from which it sprang – “On Salt Spring Island, there is no ‘away’ to send your waste, so it creates a strong sense of stewardship. It makes us think about every material we use and what will happen at the end of its life.”

Frustrated with a growing throw-away culture, McLeod and his team began charging a green fee at

all their cafes. Rather than putting this money into general revenue, they grew a fund that they eventually put towards funding for LOCO’s Zero Hero pilot program. Zero Hero worked with Salt Spring Coffee and Recycling Alternative developed systems, signage and posters for all Salt Spring Coffee’s sites to help them meet their target waste reduction goals. Then it worked with several of the company’s foodservice customers (University Golf Course, Edible Canada, Uprising Breads, etc.) to provide audits, service recommendations and signage to help them improve their systems and reduce their waste.

Through its Green Fee, Salt Spring Coffee showed leadership in working to reduce paper cup waste. They also spread their own corporate practices and worked to helped their own customers become better environmental stewards. The funding to LOCO also helped our organization continue to develop our expertise in small business sustainability implementation, and in 2016 we worked with Tetra Tech and Metro Vancouver to help catalogue the best waste management, recycling and composting practices of small businesses in the region, and gather and develop tools to improve practices in other businesses.

Salt Spring Coffee started as a pioneer in sustainable business, and continues to push the envelope of sustainability practices.

In 2016 they won B Corporation’s “Best for World” award for the second time. Not only that, but they have put their time and resources towards influencing their customers to reduce their waste – both from their cafes, and their wholesale food service. We hope that as the City of Vancouver looks for solutions, they solicit the input of pioneering businesses like Salt Spring Coffee, who have a wealth of experience, and a zero waste ethic to draw on.

[1] St. Denis, Jen. Metro News Vancouver. 2017. 2.5 million coffee cups thrown away every week in Vancouver. Accessed 10-August-2017 from http://www.metronews.ca/news/vancouver/2017/06/23/millions-coffee-cups-thrown-away-every-week-in-vancouver.html

[2] Li, Wanyee. 2017. Vancouver moves ahead with plan to reduce paper cups and takeout containers. Accessed 10-August-2017 from http://www.metronews.ca/news/vancouver/2017/06/27/vancouver-moves-forward-to-reduce-paper-cups-containers.html


Independents Thriving on Granville St-Pt4

This article is part of a series of case studies produced by LOCO for the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Area (DVBIA). We have been working with the DVBIA since December 2016 to assess the issues with empty retail storefronts on Granville Street, understand the affordability and other issues, and ensure that independent businesses stay part of the retail mix in downtown Vancouver.

The Pawn Shop

“If Granville Street is the party street, let’s make it the best party street.” – Peter Raptis, Owner, The Pawn Shop

Veteran restaurateur Peter Raptis owns The Pawn Shop on Granville Street (and The Wooden Spoon Co., in White Rock). Raptis knows a thing or two about the changing face of Granville Street. He opened in 2004, and expanded upstairs 5 years later by opening the Refinery event space. He renovated Sip Lounge in 2016 and reopened as The Pawn Shop. He made the change to accommodate the area’s more casual dining scene, catering to tech office workers, but also to area residents and late night revellers.  

Opportunities & Challenges

The Pawn Shop and the Refinery each occupy about 2 000 ft2 each in the heart of downtown. Raptis has secured favourable lease terms for many years, however his rates have steadily increased, mostly due to property tax increases that get passed on to him as part of his lease. He’s now paying about 200% more than when he started. There are many leasing opportunities on Granville Street at the moment. Raptis says the landlords of those spaces are key to helping transforming the area: “Landlords need to start seeing the long-term gain – they should invest in their buildings, and stop taking the first business that comes along. Leasing to the next marijuana dispensary or fast food place is keeping Granville Street in a rut.”

A growing challenge doing business on Granville Street is the maintenance of the street. Late night crowds, daytime loitering, and homeless camps create maintenance issues and increase costs for area businesses. Raptis says that unfortunately this is starting to translate into an image problem with Granville – a sense that the area is more dangerous than it is.


Since Granville Street has been zoned as entertainment district by the City of Vancouver, concentrating liquor primary venues and entertainment venues, he wonders why so many things are restricted on the street. Raptis says “if Granville is the party street, then let’s make it the best party street.” Relaxing regulations that stop music at midnight, and maximizing the enjoyment of public space can help. He suggests removing the parking bollards, allowing bigger restaurant patios, and continuing to activate the alleys on Granville Street. He has a few parking spaces in his alley and would like to install a patio to contribute to that.

Raptis has seen many businesses come and go on Granville Street and still sees enormous potential for the street. He’d like to see existing businesses better adapt to the clientele on the street, and have landlords bring in new businesses to help draw new and varied foot traffic – new retailers, tech offices and training schools that complement the existing mix of businesses on the street.


Independents Thriving on Granville St-Pt3

This article is part of a series of case studies produced by LOCO for the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Area (DVBIA). We have been working with the DVBIA since December 2016 to assess the issues with empty retail storefronts on Granville Street, understand the affordability and other issues, and ensure that independent businesses stay part of the retail mix in downtown Vancouver.


“The DVBIA’s research helped convince the leasing agent to choose us over a chain.” – Brendan Ladner, Owner, SMAK Fast Food

Local fast food company SMAK opened its second Vancouver location on Granville Street in August 2016. SMAK serves up healthy fast food to downtown Vancouver’s lunch time office crowds, but are open all day from breakfast until late night (6am to 10pm). SMAK has a well-heeled, health conscious clientele, and feels they are drawing some of the workers in new tech-company offices (Microsoft, ACL) in the area.  

Opportunities & Challenges

Rents are generally much higher north of Robson, and although SMAK secured a great space, owner Brendan Ladner finds the rent high. But since there were “a lineup of businesses behind us hoping to secure the real estate we got on Granville Street”, Ladner says they feel lucky to have secured a location north of Robson. He did it with the help of a local retail strategist providing support in negotiations with leasing agents.

SMAK has been grappling with the same challenges as other businesses on the street – panhandling, homelessness, and the mess created by late night bar crowds. While fitting out their space, they were also challenged by long wait times for permits and a lack of transparency on municipal rules, causing delays and driving up costs.

Ladner thinks the opportunity for breathing new life into Granville Street is to completely redo some of the dead zones and build something completely new. He thinks that opportunity exists right now in some of the multi-level retail spaces available in the 900 block of Granville. He’d love to see some ambitious tenants create an exciting destination in the area, like a big craft brewery. He also thinks that bike lanes and patios right to the curb would help facilitate the changes the neighbourhood needs, bringing new life, new customers and better use of public space to Granville.  


SMAK’s Granville location is experiencing above average sales compared to their Pender Street location. They also feel fortunate to have a locally based landlord who cares about their offering and aesthetic, adding them to a mix of businesses that will continue to build good foot traffic in the area. They are also thankful for the support that the DVBIA has offered to help them grow. Consumer research outlining the wants/needs of downtown consumers provided by the DVBIA helped them sway leasing agents to choose SMAK over a chain restaurant in their negotiations for their new location on Howe Street.

Independents Thriving on Granville Street – Pt2

This article is part of a series of case studies produced by LOCO for the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Area (DVBIA). We have been working with the DVBIA since December 2016 to assess the issues with empty retail storefronts on Granville Street, understand the affordability and other issues, and ensure that independent businesses stay part of the retail mix in downtown Vancouver.

 Hungry Guys

“The foot traffic on Granville Street is fantastic.”

– Aldo Velaj, Owner, Hungry Guys Kitchen

Aldo Velaj opened Hungry Guys Kitchen in a new building at the busy corner of Granville and Nelson in November 2015. Hungry Guys Kitchen serves “good food fast – burritos, salads and bowls with an easy-going casual vibe” from 11am-10pm every day. 90% of the clientele consists of health conscious young professionals – many are well-dressed lawyers and judges coming for lunch from the courthouse.

Opportunities & Challenges

Hungry Guys occupies 3200 ft2 on the ground floor. Velaj secured favorable terms and is on good terms with his landlord, Fleetwood Investments, whom he says is friendly and responsible. His business is in a relatively new building, built about 5 years ago, that is also occupied by multinationals – Tim Horton’s and 7/11.

Velaj feels that lease rates in Vancouver generally seem high compared with other cities major Canadian cities like Montreal and Toronto. However, there are many storefronts available on Granville Street, and Velaj says that good rates can be found, with the best rates towards Davie Street.

Hungry Guys benefits from the high foot traffic on Granville Street – which he says say is fantastic – however, it doesn’t always translate directly to sales. Velaj thinks the concentration of street issues and homeless in the neighbourhood makes it tougher for businesses in the area. He hopes the City of Vancouver will do more to patrol and “clean” the streets.


With its high profile location, and healthy fresh food, Hungry Guys has managed to launch their business mostly through word of mouth. Now that they are more established, Velaj is building the business with some online marketing and a bit of public relations. He focuses on different promotions every day, and is pleased to report that business is going well and the restaurant is profitable. He thinks that downtown Vancouver has crazy potential – with its beauty, modern infrastructure and design, clean air and  mild weather. Hungry Guys would love to see some new restaurants, coffee shops and bars take advantage of that opportunity and locate on Granville Street. Velaj himself will invest his efforts in the revitalization of the street – watch for a new concept restaurant nearby to his current business coming soon!

Independents Thriving on Granville – Pt1

This article is part of a series of case studies produced by LOCO for the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Area (DVBIA). We have been working with the DVBIA since December 2016 to assess the issues with empty retail storefronts on Granville Street, understand the affordability and other issues, and ensure that independent businesses stay part of the retail mix in downtown Vancouver.

8th & Main

“I always loved Granville Street for its mix of fun and edgy. We easily found a building with the right look and space for our brand. Now it’s our fastest growing location.”

– Scott Hilton, Co-owner, 8th & Main

Local clothing retailer 8th & Main opened its second Vancouver location on Granville Street in 2014. They began with Flavour and Flavour Upstairs (vintage) on Johnson Street in Victoria, expanding to Vancouver with 8th & Main on Main Street, Granville Street and  most recently Yonge Street in Toronto. Co-owner Scott Hilton grew up in B.C.’s interior and used to visit Granville Street when he came to Vancouver. He always liked the entertainment and shopping, and the mix of fun and edginess on the street. Given their success on independent Main Street, locating on Granville seemed a natural extension.  

Opportunities & Challenges

Hilton thinks there are great spaces available for reasonable rates on Granville Street for the right business, and that they can expect to be able to negotiate quite a bit on posted rates. Hilton secured a 10 year lease for the 6000 ft2 space at a great rate, taking over another clothing store that needed few leasehold improvements.

Hilton admits that he has encountered some security issues on Granville Street. The store has hired a security guard to ensure staff safety and loss prevention. Hilton has done the same thing at his Main Street store, but splits the cost with several other neighbourhood businesses. He’d like to share the Granville guard with other businesses on the street.


8th & Main’s Granville Street location was profitable from day one, and is now their fastest growing location. There are a lot of new customers every month and high rises are going up on many of the surrounding blocks – all pointing to a bright future. 8th & Main would like to see other independent restaurants and retailers join them on Granville Street. Hilton thinks that any business who succeeds in other independent neighbourhoods like West 4th, Gastown, South Granville or Commercial would see similar success here. His final thought? “There is an added bonus on downtown Granville of more late night traffic and many tourists, especially in summer. Granville/Davie is becoming a hub with an independent streak, and this is the time to find a good space.”

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.