Bainbridge Island wants to help its businesses that have been hurt by COVID-19 restrictions.
So, at this week’s City Council meeting, staff was directed to search for proposals for a digital general store website that would help publicize and promote local businesses.
“It is very clear that e-commerce has transitioned from being a growing way of doing business to being a critical means of business survival in the age of COVID,” said Deputy Mayor Joe Deets, who is leading the proposal as part of the council Economic Recovery Ad Hoc Committee’s COVID aid efforts.
Deets estimates it will cost $30,000 to “kick start” the digital general store. However, he does not envision it to be an ongoing cost to the City.
Previously, the council approved $20,000 to support a “Save Our Stores” campaign initiated and led by the Chamber of Commerce and the Bainbridge Island Downtown Association. The city also reimbursed those organizations, up to $5,000, for their coronavius-related expenses.
The council also approved $10,000 for the purchase of disposable and reusable face masks for local businesses.
The digital general store proposals will be reviewed by city staff and the council committee members. When the selection process is complete, the proposal will return to the City Council for approval.
The council summary says: “The economic impact from the COVID-19 pandemic has been sudden and devastating, with there being no sign of imminent recovery. Many local businesses have closed, never to return. The impact has been traumatic for many Islanders, with loss of livelihoods, jobs and needed local services.”
The summary continues saying the economic recovery efforts should be done as quickly as possible, help as may businesses as possible and last well into the future.
An accompanying memorandum from committee members says while tax receipts the past year in town have gone up 6 percent, there was a 15 percent decrease in receipts from local businesses, showing more purchasing is being done online. A digital general store would allow local businesses to “easily sell their goods and services online at little or no cost to themselves.”
A mockup of what a potential digital store would look like includes categories for shop, eat, play, stay and give. Similar stores were shown to be effective in Ballard, Capitol Hill, Pioneer Square and West Seattle.