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Retail Trio Hatches Plan to Keep Small Shops Afloat

Local retailers and other small businesses have faced a number of formidable challenges during the coronavirus outbreak but a new platform may give consumers a chance to help keep their local favorites afloat while stores remain closed.

The Shop Local Project is a new, not-for-profit collaborative online platform put together by a group of brands and endorsed by the Board Retailers Association, a non-profit trade group representing specialty action sports retailers in the U.S.

Canadian boot and footwear brand Baffin is helping to spearhead the project with support from other businesses that rely on specialty retailers, including outdoor footwear, apparel and accessories brand Salomon.

Consumers interested in supporting these retailers can use the platform to purchase discounted gift cards from businesses in their area., a company that help brands set up employee sales contests to improve product insight, led in formulating the idea and approached Baffin for support.

“The Shop Local Project is a shining example of how we rally together in times of crisis,” Mark Hubner, vice president of brand and strategy at Baffin Footwear, said. “When the team at Endvr shared this idea, Baffin didn’t think twice about jumping in to help out.

“It’s a refreshing opportunity to help your community, while maintaining safe physical distance in a time when it can be challenging to do so,” he added.

The proceeds from these sales are sent to the retailers daily, according to a statement. This type of collaborative effort will be invaluable in keeping small businesses and specialty retailers alive and could even help build a larger retail community, co-CEO Steve Gendron said.

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“The Shop Local Project is a great opportunity to build an even bigger community by giving consumers the chance to support their favorite local stores during these tough times so that these businesses can continue to grow in the future,” Gendron said.

More than 75 percent of independent shops remain closed, the collaborators said, and around 50 percent of those businesses are not supported by an e-commerce channel.

According to data and analysis provided by The NPD Group, online retail channels will only become more valuable as the coronavirus quarantine persists. While many retailers have turned to promotions and discounts to offset a lack of physical revenue, specialty retailers without e-commerce channels could be left in the dark without programs like the Shop Local Project.

A number of organizations have been formed recently to help specialty retailers and small shops function during the pandemic. Chaco Footwear launched its own project to support this effort and PREIT Malls unveiled an initiative in April to give greater visibility to small-business tenants.

Membership in the program will be available at no cost for participating specialty retailers.