For retailers, will the “Blue Basket” be enough to get through the crisis?

The “Blue Basket” may not be a quick fix, but for some retailers, the initiative will allow them to weather the storm caused by the COVID-19 pandemic rather than going out of business, say retail specialists.
In general, the non-transactional platform – a non-profit organization – which lists Quebec retailers has received a rather favorable reception since it was unveiled on Sunday by the Legault government. It contains the information, as well as the link to the website, where more than 1,100 retailers were registered at the end of the day on Sunday. This list should grow as entrepreneurs fill out the online registration form.

After having been temporarily inaccessible the previous day due to excessive traffic, the “lepanierbleu.ca” site did not seem to be experiencing the same technical difficulties on Monday afternoon.

In the wake of the extension until May 4 of the forced break in Quebec, this is unexpected visibility for several companies, said Francine Rodier, of the School of Management Sciences at UQAM, during a telephone interview.

“I think it will give wings to retailers who are trying to survive,” she said. The small business that couldn’t afford to be seen will have access to a storefront it never would have had. ”

Charles de Brabant, executive director of the Bensadoun School of Retail Business Management at McGill University, agreed.

In a context where attention is drawn to the news surrounding the spread of the new coronavirus, it is very difficult for a smaller retailer to be able to stand out, he said on the phone. .

When Prime Minister François Legault invites Quebecers to encourage local retailers to support them, we will have to see if consumers will follow this recommendation when many of them may also have to tighten their belts.

With a tighter budget, will consumers agree to pay more for a Quebec product? Perhaps not always, according to Ms. Rodier and Mr. de Brabant, who nevertheless expect behavioral changes.

“Will we buy Quebecers for 100% of our purchases? Probably not, said the expert from McGill. But maybe for 10% of my basket, I will be able to make an effort. ”

Sunday, Minister of Economy and Innovation, Pierre Fitzgibbon, argued that “if each Quebec household bought $ 5 more per week of Quebec products, it would be $ 1 billion [more] in the local economy . ”

Since each retailer is responsible for the transactional component, Ms. Rodier hopes to see Quebec offer the necessary resources to support them.

“The Blue Basket must not lead to sites where the [technological] means are not there,” warned the specialist. Often, small retailers do not have the means and expertise to set up these sites. I think there needs to be a dedicated team [to lend them a hand]. ”

For the two teachers, all Quebec retailers should have access to the new platform, even if they do not offer products entirely made in Quebec.

On this aspect, it would be possible, for example, to offer more details on product traceability so that consumers can have all the information at hand.

“I would tend to say that today, we want to save the economy and promote local businesses,” observed Mr. de Brabant. In my opinion, it would be really harmful to only offer this showcase to companies that manufacture everything in Quebec. In some areas, it just isn’t possible. ”

He gave the example of the retailer Simons, which is established in the province and which contributes to the economy even if certain products are manufactured abroad.

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