When the coronavirus lockdown hit London in March, Curt Collins was in the same position as almost every other small business owner.
Collins Former Wear was forced to lay off 45 employees and he and his wife, Rebecca, were left scratching their heads.
“We were just coming on to prom and grad season,” he said. “What do we do here?”
They decided to launch a line of clothing branded with a Canada Strong logo to support small businesses and front-line workers.
“We took it to our design and marketing team and they really knocked it out of the park,” Collins said.
The Canada Strong clothing line is sold online at collinsclothiers.com/canadastrong and since its debut last month, response has been tremendous.
Collins said small businesses who direct customers to buy products on the Canada Strong website get 10 per cent of the sale for the referral, while another 10 per cent goes into a fund for small businesses and front-line workers.
The clothier also partnered with London Health Sciences Centre and hospitals in Hamilton and B.C., so the hospitals get 20 per cent of all Canada Strong purchases via their websites.
Canada Strong also has teamed with local businesses and groups, including Highland Country Club’s TLC Foundation, Source for Sports, Nash Jewellers, Provincial Glass and Mirror, Coulter’s Pharmacy and Home Health Care and Valu-Mart.
And Couriers Plus is offering free delivery for local orders, Collins said.
“We are just trying to get businesses involved to get some sales revenue going through the community,” he said. “The original plan was to help spread the word about small businesses. . . . We wanted to bring attention to all the small businesses that are struggling with rent and staff and everything else.”
But the effort has grown well beyond what the family-owned business expected.
“We just added a sock line two weeks ago — one of the doctors at the hospital helped design them — and we’ve sold over 3,000 pairs,” Collins said. “We have eight staff back and we’ve made over 2,500 masks.”
What started out as a local effort has gone national.
“We have businesses from British Columbia calling us, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick,” Collins said. “We just shipped a bunch of hoodies to a company in Newfoundland.
“There’s no end to who’s jumped on board and it’s just amazing to see.”