Canadians love shopping online. Official statistics show that, in 2012, Canadian enterprises sold goods and services over the internet worth about $122 billion. A big chunk of that share, or 61%, goes on in three sectors – manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade. Larger businesses naturally dominated the online market, accounting for 59% of the value of total online sales. Almost one third of them conducted business online, although some small Canadian retailers maintained a steady presence on the Internet.
Online shopping seems destined to grow since all you need and want is only a click away. Forget about driving for miles to the nearest mall or your favorite retailer; forget about the hustle and bustle of the maddening crowds during the holiday season when everybody behaves as if partaking in some store-browsing marathon.
Here are some small businesses that stand out with their innovative approach in offering unusual customer experience for online shoppers.
Based in Whitby, Ontario, this small online enterprise won the 2012 Canada Post E-Commerce Innovation Award in the category Best New E-Business. As the name suggests, ShirtPunch sells limited edition t-shirts, but with a creative twist. The site features three exclusive designs that stay available for order only 24 hours, then change with new ones. You can choose between pop culture themes or a TV character, and then own a unique t-shirt for $10. The design can be imprinted on hoodies, magnets, phone cases, buttons and much more. Designers from all over the world are invited to submit their work. If they are lucky to get selected, they would get introduced with a short Q&A on the site, and get to make $1 off every sold shirt.
Some call it sustainable fashion, others – recycling for the greater good. Operating in Hamilton, Ontario, Trend Trunk gives out such a positive vibe that even if fashion is the last thing on your mind, you are tempted to stop and take a look. The motto of the company: “We believe that one person’s lonely wardrobe is another’s true love.” The message to all fashionistas out there is clear – stay beautiful, but keep it “green”. If the clothes you bought last month, year or decade do not appeal to you the way they did in the past, you can “cash in your closet”. Handmade and vintage items are welcomed. The small business prides itself on being a socially responsible company, so the money you make off your sales can be donated to a cause of your choice. You can also use it to shop in other users’ closets, or simply have it deposited into your bank account.
This site has got to be the best thing that ever happened to university students in terms of saving money. It would make you look back at your university years and sigh regretfully. BookMob is an Ottawa company that allows you to buy new and used textbooks, or sell yours online. The best part though: at the start of the semester you can check the site’s massive inventory and rent the textbooks you need for a lot less. You get to select the rental period, but you also have an option to extend it without additional charges. Return the textbooks when you are done by putting them in the same shipping box in which they arrived. The return shipping cost is paid by BookMob.
The online extension of McBurney Junction, a lifestyle store in Langley, B.C., CharmJunction sells gold and silver jewelry, but mainly authentic PANDORA charms, bracelets, necklaces and more. All of these items make for wonderful presents on any occasion. The great part here is that you can design it yourself from scratch so as to match the receiver’s personality quirks and taste. Or just select a gift from the rich collection the site offers. Shipping is free.
Remember the gift card uncle Bob gave you last Christmas, and you couldn’t help but wonder what to do with it? Here is a great site that can help you out. CardSwap allows you to get rid of long-forgotten gift cards and get up to 92% of their value. You can buy new ones and earn awards redeemable for gift cards. If you decide, you can sell your unused card to CardSwap and they will donate the amount to a charitable organization. If all you want is to buy a gift card from your favourite retailer, this site based in Toronto will take care of the shipping anywhere in Canada – it is absolutely free.