Forever seeking ways to make consumption make more, well, sense, we asked retail expert and change advocate Krista Halliday what we can be doing as Canadians to support independent and local businesses, even in big-box stores. —Vita Daily
What do you do in your role as a retail expert?
I work to create, bring, and grow beauty, wellness and personal care brands to the Canadian market. I followed my passion in beauty and lifestyle and entered the retail space very early on in my career, learning at some of the best household brands including Revlon, Holt Renfrew, Rexall and Jarden Home Brands. During that time, I noticed a white space in the market—a need for experienced consultation that would help emerging and even legacy brands navigate international expansion in the unique Canadian retail landscape. I formed Ray Management Group to answer that need. We are the brand behind the brands, a sales and marketing firm specializing in retail solutions and innovation. As a retail expert my team and I help brands create effective retail strategies, secure distribution, manage marketing and drive brand success from top to toe. My priority is helping well-intentioned brands reach their objectives and encouraging retailers to establish a fair and equitable marketplace for all companies, big and small.
What do you want consumers to think about when they go into big box stores?
The mass retail ecosystem is weighted to benefit brands with bigger pocketbooks and large corporations. It’s very difficult and expensive for small and independent brands to break into the mass retail space and be put on shelves. Consumers should keep this in mind when they go into big-box stores and understand the true value of their dollars. Your purchasing decisions really do have a lot of power and could shift the assortment offered by retailers.
Why should consumers rethink their shopping habits?
Consumers need to understand that their decisions matter and can mean life or death for many companies. I think a lot of the time we, as consumers, think these small decisions like what soap to buy don’t mean anything in the grand scheme of things—but they really do. I want all readers to know that your purchases are power and I challenge you to use it effectively to support real people trying to do some really great things.
What can we do as shoppers to use our buying power for good?
Even if you find yourself in a big box store, there’s still ways to support small and local brands, giving them a fighting chance against the majors. Shoppers at any time of the year can use their valuable dollars to vote for better products, made locally and independently, just by simply following these tips:
- Steer clear of private label: You know the ones; retailer owned product lines. They tout affordability but take away from a fair and competitive marketplace. You may be saving a few cents here and there, but consider the effects on the larger economy when one company owns the store and has a monopoly on the product offerings too. When you buy independent, you’re not only supporting independently owned and operated businesses, but a healthier local and national economy as well.
- Look down: shop the lower shelf: Shelf space at eye level is expensive and often locked up by conglomerates. By simply looking down and shopping lower shelves, you will often discover new and independent small businesses. Walk the aisles, try new things, and remember saving a dollar or two now can mean less choice later on.
- Read the fine print: look for local: I can’t stress the importance of reading. Always read the label for “made in” information—ownership will often be listed there too. Take a look at the companies you’re supporting on a regular basis.
- Beware of unregulated marketing buzzwords/claims: More on the need for reading! This one might be disappointing to many. Most of the “feel good” buzzwords you see on packaging are unregulated, meaning you can’t count on their validity at first glance. Terms like “all-natural, superfood, anti-oxidant, pure, green, eco-conscious, non-toxic, eco-friendly” are not regulated by any governing body, meaning brands can smack those badges onto packaging without anyone fact checking it is indeed living up to those claims. Reading ingredient lists can be daunting, but it’s on you as the consumer to fact check these claims on shelf if they are important to you. Once you start, you will get pretty good at it and it won’t feel so overwhelming!
- Try something new: I get so excited trying new products and I encourage everyone to do the same. You may discover your new favourite brand or product while using those valuable dollars to vote for local, small and independent brands. What’s better than that?
Of course, whenever possible, try to get out of those big-box stores and shop direct at local businesses, too, or through independent retailers and brand websites. The smaller business, brands and independents are vital to our economy and often mandate better for you products.
What are your top three Canadian small businesses to shop this season?
Blume is an awesome hostess gift or stocking stuffer. They offer a ton of delicious flavoured lattes packed with superfoods and organic ingredients—definitely something unique and delicious to gift this season For the design-inclined moms on your list, Milly Stone is a newly launched female-owned and operated brand of beautiful, hand-illustrated luxe matte vinyl Catch Alls, handy for mealtime and playtime alike. If you’re entertaining and looking for unique and delicious non-alcoholic beverage options, Sap Sucker is another great local brand! It’s sparkling tree water that has a little fizz and the slightest hint of natural sweetness.
November 17th, 2022 at 7:38 pm
Wow – crazy to think how much power and impact our everyday purchases have. Thank you Krista for shedding a light on this and providing some great suggestions!
November 18th, 2022 at 10:47 am
Totally agree. Now, more than ever, we need to support local. They have been through so much with Covid and changing retail habits. In my experience you find such unique items in small, local stores with first class service!