McGee’s Landing modern approach to old fashioned gift shopping
McGee’s Landing was supposed to be Sharon Richard's retirement plan, a simple gift shop in the old part of downtown Stoney Creek where she could transition from the years of teaching entrepreneurship and working with small businesses to running something of her own.
“(Having a shop) was a dream of mine since I was a kid,” says Richards. And four years in, she’s accomplished that. Even as McGee’s Landing has grown from gifts to decor and clothing it’s still preserved that feeling of being “the best-kept secret in Stoney Creek.”
But the way main street businesses stay relevant is changing, spurred by the continuous creep of e-commerce, and Richards' biggest challenge as a business owner will be finding ways to modernize the shop while preserving that old fashioned feel that keeps customers coming in.
“Most people do something digitally, whether it's on Facebook or Instagram… they want to see pictures, they need information,” says the entrepreneur. She’s confident in her ability to speak to customers through social media in the same way she would in the shop. But there’s a learning curve outside of that customer experience.
“It's a struggle,” admits Richards. “I'm 75-years-old and not good with computers and all this digital stuff… I know I need help.”
This past summer, McGee’s Landing applied for the Digital Main Street program’s Digital Transformation grant. She’d discovered the program through the Stoney Creek BIA. Digital Main Street leverages grants and one-to-one support from the Province of Ontario and the Ontario BIA Association to help main street businesses across Ontario strengthen their digital and online capabilities.
It wasn’t her first time delving into digital.
“I spent a lot of money for someone to set a website up for me,” she says. But the process of selling online proved arduous. “I had to weigh everything, measure everything, and do it all in kilograms and centimetres… it was just way too much.”
At its core, Richards was looking for a way to keep customers up to date on what’s new at the shop. “Then they come in and we go through the process of helping them find the right thing for their people.”
But if she was going to showcase her products online, it had to be good quality photos. “I find too many shops have Facebook pages, if you will, that are very, very amateurish,” says the McGee’s Landing owner. “That's why I took the course so that I can make my presentation of my merchandise look good and more professional – I want it to be done well.”
Through the digital transformation grant, Richards was able to invest in a new phone that would let her take better photos and improve her content. Since investing, she’s already noticing a growing number of clients who are finding the shop through images she’s posted online. IT’s bringing that little bit of modern to the old fashioned feel she’s trying to balance.
“I've had people call me from their cottage in Never Never Land up north somewhere and they saw something in one of the photos I sent out just last week,” says Richards. They wanted her to put aside an item from the photo. “Another lady came in today and said, Oh, I saw a lot of your photos on Facebook, you really did a good job – it makes you feel good that you tried a little harder.”
Written by Andrew Seale
Digital Main Street was created by the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) with direct support from the City of Toronto. DMS is also supported by a group of strategic business partners, including Google, Mastercard, Shopify, Microsoft, Facebook, Intuit QuickBooks, Square, and Yellow Pages.
This case study was completed during a prior expansion of DMS in partnership with the Province of Ontario and Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
In June 2020, a $42.5-million investment from FedDev Ontario and an additional $7.45 million from the Government of Ontario brought together the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas, Communitech, Invest Ottawa and the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association to expand the Digital Main Street Platform in order to support more businesses going digital as a response to the impacts of COVID-19.