Small business owners miss out on winter markets this year

By Joe Boulet

Menchie Finlay’s neatly prepared Cinnaholic display awaits customers at last year’s Made by RRC Winter Market./MENCHIE FINLAY

Artisans in Manitoba are missing out on holiday sales events this year, and some say they needed this boost during a tough economic period.

Some small business owners’ hopes for a prosperous holiday season were crushed when Manitoba forced non-essential retailers to close on Nov. 12.

“My business was registered for eight markets that were all cancelled,” said Lynn Gibson, owner of Queenston Crafts. 

Gibson makes mittens and other items from second-hand wool sweaters.

“The majority of my sales come from craft shows, so every show is important,” Gibson said.

Craft sales and markets are usually a staple of the Christmas season. Statista suggests Canadians have surpassed $200 million annually on arts and culture spending in the last few years. 

Small businesses must now observe what’s left of the season’s festivities from the sidelines.

“We’re disappointed all the events this year were cancelled,” said Menchie Finlay, owner of Cinnaholic.

The award-winning cinnamon roll business planned to participate in the annual Made by RRC Winter Market at Red River College until it was cancelled due to COVID-19.

“It’s very critical for small businesses to have pop-up events like this,” said Finlay.

Gibson, who has also participated in RRC’s winter markets, said crafters spend months building up stock for the event. Many attendees also get a lot of their Christmas shopping done at these markets, said Gibson.

Before the pandemic, RRC planned its third annual Made by RRC Winter Market. It’s usually an opportunity for students, grads, staff, and the community to get in the holiday spirit.

“It was great to be able to show off what we do with people I’ve worked with for years,” said Chris Bryan, owner of Grumble Toy.

Some businesses have moved their sales online to salvage what they can from the holidays.

Cinnaholic is taking orders from its website and using delivery services such as SkipTheDishes and DoorDash.

Some small businesses are now forced to compete against major online retailers or risk closing for good.