THUNDER BAY – A newly-launched website is looking to offer a one-stop-shop for local products, hoping to give Thunder Bay-area businesses a leg up in a market increasingly dominated by online sales.
The myLocalism website has signed up vendors offering products ranging from clothing and jewelry to electronics to fitness equipment since launching in late April, and founder and CEO Pam Tallon has ambitious plans to grow the site in the coming years.
“We’re looking to answer that burning question that consumers said they had: ‘Where can I find this in Thunder Bay?’” she said. “Because most of the things that people want are here, but people don’t know that, or they can’t find it, so they end up going elsewhere and the money leaves the community.”
Tallon said she’s happy with the progress the site has made in its opening weeks, with about 30 vendors signed on, though not all have yet listed products.
“I think that’s very, very encouraging. It’s a high percentage of the vendors who have already seen profit from the website, and it’s only been open for about two weeks.”
Wellness 3D is among a handful of shops to have made sales through myLocalism. The store, which launched in January, sells fitness equipment and offers services like 3D body scanning, red light therapy, and automated massage.
Owner Matt Lawrence said joining myLocalism was a “no brainer” for his business after he heard about it through his insurance broker, saying the ease of online shopping elsewhere has posed a challenge for small, local retailers.
“It lets us compete with a larger market that is Amazon, but in a local atmosphere,” he said. “So people in Thunder Bay who are going online to search have one localized spot they can search, and they know those products have been sourced from someone who has a local business.”
The site charges businesses about $40 a month and retains 14 per cent per transaction, including credit card and other financial fees. Lawrence called those rates reasonable, adding the site also helps market businesses who join, pooling advertising dollars for a larger impact.
Tallon said myLocalism developed out of her decade-long interest in going local, starting Facebook groups to try to connect customers with local products and growing plants through a small greenhouse business.
Once the site begins generating a profit, Tallon said the company has committed to give back up to 5 per cent to local charities and other initiatives.
The three-person team behind the website is local as well, she said, and discussions are underway with a local delivery company.
She surveyed around 140 consumers and 70 vendors last year to inform the project.
Only 11 per cent of those consumers said they want to shop for products on individual store websites, she said.
“That’s a really scary number when everything is moving online – vendors need a way of competing with that.”
Building up the website into a major local shopping destination will take time and outreach, she said, estimating it will be around two years before the business begins turning a profit, though she’s hopeful it will generate significant revenue for local businesses in the meantime.