$55,000 raised, thanks to overwhelming community response and far-reaching social media campaign
Queen West’s “little sex shop that could,” Come As You Are, has avoided what looked to be imminent closure, thanks to the enthusiastic response they received to a public plea for customer support on Facebook, Twitter, and through media outlets across the city. The store raised approximately $55,000 (half from in-store sales, half through their website) since the beginning of its campaign, which included a one-day-only Use It or Lose It Sale and a surprise Tenga Easter Egg Hunt along Queen Street West with the participation of The Gladstone Hotel, Aslan Leather, Fuzz Wax Bar, The Drake Hotel, and Eyesore Video.
“We had a huge response from Toronto and across Canada, as customers we hadn’t heard from in years rallied to the cause,” CAYA worker/owner Sarah Forbes-Roberts told us. “We basically sold all our inventory off with no profit margin, so it was an extremely bold move. It means though we move in to our new fiscal year with money in our bank accounts and a balanced budget going forward. It was what we needed to do to save the business.”
What made the campaign so successful? The resounding support of customers old and new, many of whom were called to action via social media. “Customers were really upset that we were considering closing,” Forbes-Roberts noted. “Social media really helped get the word out and it was—ironically—the best social media campaign we’ve run. Customers can be fairly quiet on social media even though we make a point of using it extensively for everything we do. This time was very different. Folks came out of the woodwork to make it known they love the shop and the social good we do.”
“We’re still nervous, like all small business owners. We’re hoping for good summer traffic, and the good news is there are some new shops opening up around us, including White Squirrel Coffee in the old Peach Berserk space.”
With so much happening quickly, and such an intense focus on filling orders and moving inventory, CAYA’s business owners have yet to meet to decide on next steps. “We’re definitely considering all the options on the table. Many have spoken about us only existing online with no rent to pay, or little rent with a warehouse. However, we are fighting to keep the physical store open. Queen West has come out and said they want us to stay. It gives us an edge that other online competitors don’t have. Also, with the physical store we have a connection with neigbourhood and community that can’t be replicated online.”
Although the co-op risked a great deal by going public with their struggle, the results clearly have been worth it. “We really leave the experience with extremely warm feelings in our hearts,” said Forbes-Roberts. “Toronto saved us!”