HALIFAX—Halifax’s mayor is hopeful a new eBay program will help international shoppers find a piece of Nova Scotia, and boost the local economy.
“People around the world might be interested in some of the cool clothing that’s being designed in downtown Dartmouth and Halifax, maybe they’re interested in some of the spirits that are being made here,” Mike Savage told a crowd of politicians, business people and media on Thursday.
The e-commerce giant picked Halifax as the first Canadian city for the Retail Revival program due to the “strength and diversity” of the area’s businesses, according to Andrea Stairs, the general manager for eBay Canada and Latin America.
The program is a 12-month partnership that helps small and medium-sized businesses learn how best to sell online through eBay’s platform, giving them free training, digital tools, customer support, and promotional marketing. Featured sellers and products are also highlighted through individual city’s eBay pages for those looking to shop from local shops.
The Halifax region was also selected for the “the tremendous opportunity for e-commerce and exporting, and the strong commitment to small business from the region,” Stairs said.
Since launching in Akron, Ohio last January, Stairs said eBay has brought the program to two other cities in the U.S. and U.K., and helped businesses export to more than 80 international markets and generate millions in sales.
Both the federal government and province have kicked in funding ($60,000 and $25,000 respectively), and Mayor Mike Savage said although the city isn’t providing funds, it is a partner and was a “catalyst” for bringing in eBay.
Savage had some conversations with eBay representatives in Toronto during a business trip last June, and he brought the Retail Revival idea home with the thought “we need to be the one that’s doing this.”
The mayor said other cities were interested in the program, but Halifax is a good match as it’s growing, has a younger demographic, and is home to an “innovation technology” industry.
“We are a little unique,” Savage said. “Downtown Halifax … there wasn’t a lot businesses or people there like there had been in the heyday 50, 60 years ago — now you see the businesses.”
The mayor is looking forward to seeing how the program will help local retailers sell products to a bigger market, whether it be businesses who have embraced online shopping and want to expand, or those who haven’t ventured into online sales yet.
“It’s just a wider audience, and I think that there will be some companies who will embrace this and it’ll be quite transformative,” he said.
Stairs said they are now taking applications for Halifax businesses interested in joining the program at ebayinc.com/halifax.
Amid all the buzzwords like “innovation” and “synergy” on Thursday, there were no specifics on how many businesses will be accepted in the program.
However, the Retail Revival Halifax website said that will depend on the number of applicants and “the compatibility of their businesses with the program.” They said eBay is committed to accepting “as many as are qualified, within the limits of our ability to provide proper, personalized service and support to each participant.”
In Akron, more than 100 small businesses gathered for workshops and training as part of the program last March.
Mary Ng, the federal Minister of Small Business and Export Export Promotion, told the crowd small and medium-sized businesses are the “backbone” of Canada’s economy, making up 99 per cent of all businesses in the country, although only 12 per cent of them export to other countries.
“The effort to grow into those global marketplaces, the ability … to access that 1.5 billion customers globally, is an absolute opportunity for us to grow,” Ng said, “and ultimately for your businesses to bring great Canadian jobs right here in Halifax.”
Haley Ryan is a Halifax-based reporter covering women’s issues and advocacy. Follow her on Twitter: @hkryan17