‘Localized’ Ecommerce Marketplace Launches in Canada with Ambitious Expansion Plans

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He now works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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A Calgary startup is connecting online shoppers to local products through a free-ecommerce marketplace to support local businesses during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new Local Shops platform has ambitions to expand in the future across North America.

“Search-engine results are dominated by global companies, so local suppliers of quality goods are crowded out of the marketplace,” said Ryan Corry, founder of Local Shops. “We want to change that.

RYAN CORRY. PHOTO: LINKEDIN

“COVID-19 has presented many challenges for businesses and simply getting online is not a cure-all solution. Right now, it’s easier to buy on Amazon than to source products locally.

“It’s a great time for this type of platform so we can really amplify the local businesses that are online and bricks and mortar within the community and just make it easy for consumers to find and support them.”

Local Shops is an online marketplace, which uses location-based technology to show shoppers products that can be found within their city. Consumers can easily discover and purchase local products, supporting area businesses and keeping money in the community.

“I’ve experienced the whole online boost of shopping and I’ve seen how many people are spending money from outside of Calgary and also how many people in Calgary are spending money outside of our jurisdiction as well,” said Corry.

“So the idea came to aggregate all of the local product listings in one place. Leverage the Shopify platform which so many people already use to pull the product listings and do that for every other e-commerce solution that’s available really. That way people can filter by their location. They can find all the same sorts of products you would find on Amazon or Walmart, if not better. And spend your money within your own community.

“I’ve already gone through the database of Shopify users in Calgary and Edmonton and other major cities and it’s unbelievable to see the diversity of products, and these are all the same types of things we’re buying on the worldwide web. By creating this environment, we’re also creating a competitive advantage back for local businesses. The same advantage they had for bricks and mortar when you’re a main street business in the 1950s. But with the creation of the worldwide web there’s no more competitive advantage anymore. Now the advantage is cash flow, SEO experts, and the size of your team, general relevance and the size of your advertising budget. So all of these small businesses who are online have to compete with these giants for first page of listings and it’s a total unfair environment to be successful locally and it takes years and years of hard work until your store finally generates that organic traffic.”

Corry said with Local Shops it’s a great opportunity for people getting into the online world for the first time, have that immediate engagement, start to make sales, and not have to worry about the painstaking task of being visible through Google.

Corry works in the tech industry and founded one of Canada’s largest onesie companies, UNI-Chillwear. Co-founder Serene Yew is the Technical Director at Pixeltree, an innovative Calgary tech firm.

SERENE YEW. PHOTO: LINKEDIN

“There’s been 146 per cent growth in online orders since April 21, with much of that revenue leaving our province,” said Yew. “Local Shops will change that, making it easy to find local goods and deliver them even faster.”

Local Shops features no sign-up fee for businesses and they can start selling their products within minutes. Local Shops has partnered with Shopify to enable product imports for merchants. Businesses who are not online, can upload their products directly to the marketplace.

“We’ve got an amazing opportunity at our hands here. We’re going to be working with another tech company and we’re leveraging their API (application programming interface) for on-demand delivery. That will be available in the U.S. first and Canada in 2021,” said Corry. “So the same way you’re able to order food through Skip the Dishes we’ll have that same sort of environment for local consumer goods. That will be a first of its kind type of environment and one we’re most excited about.

“And then we’re scaling to every major city. We’ll have a presence in every major city in Canada by the end of this month and also a presence in the U.S. I fully expect to be in all major cities within the year. An ambitious strategy.”

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