“Our merchants run physical stores. The web is not where you buy your two-by-four. And your circular saw, you want to touch it, you want an adviser to talk to you about it. »

According to Richard Darveau, president and CEO of the Quebec Association of Hardware and Building Materials (AQMAT), the Blue Basket “erred” in its mission and failed to arouse the interest of its members.

Since its creation at the start of the pandemic, the Blue Basket – an online shopping platform that brings together Quebec merchants – has come under heavy criticism. At the beginning of the year, several companies listed there confirmed to La Presse that their presence on this market place had not allowed them to generate huge sales. More recently, the Minister of the Economy, Pierre Fitzgibbon, during the study of budgetary appropriations, revealed that only 1% of the products displayed on the site were certified Quebecois. A total of 115,000 are listed, along with 250 merchants.

Thus, following these revelations, several members of AQMAT, meeting at a convention in Saint-Hyacinthe last Thursday, did not hide their disbelief in the Blue Basket, a project that does not seem to have been able to rally them.

“The basic idea was [good],” admits Dominique Bélanger, owner of La Quincaillerie C. Bélanger in Montreal. But more than three years after its creation, he is wondering about the merits of the Blue Basket which, according to him, should put more emphasis on local products.

Is his business on Rue Masson listed on the Blue Basket? “I didn’t make the effort to enroll,” he says. I wonder if I [already] typed the word Blue Basket. »

For his part, Nicolas Couture, president of Couture Timber Mart, which has four stores in the Eastern Townships, is also skeptical. “It’s a great initiative in itself. Do people use it? I wonder. We don’t have any data on that. Is this initiative yielding the expected results? Not necessarily, I suspect. »

Its stores are also not listed on this marketplace.

AQMAT members even questioned Stéphane Drouin, vice-president, Quebec purchasing and economic development at Investissement Québec, on this subject, following his speech at the conference.

Mr. Drouin was obviously not comfortable criticizing the initiative initially launched by the Quebec government led by Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon. “The minister is my boss,” he recalled with a smile in his voice.

“Between doing nothing and doing something, I like doing something as well,” he added. We will let time do its work. We will see in five years if it is still interesting. »

Asked about the skepticism of hardware stores and critics about the number of Quebec products on the site, the director of the Blue Basket, Alain Dumas, wanted to clarify. “Hardware was not the first sector we looked for,” he admitted on the phone. But it is a sector that we are still targeting and we will be happy to talk to them. We know we have work to do. »

Regarding the low proportion of certified Quebec products on the platform, Mr. Dumas specifies that the products from here are much more numerous than what has been revealed. However, they have not all received certification since it is the merchant himself who must apply for it.

“I am very aware that it is complex. We have to repeat it. It is also our objective to communicate it well. Maybe we haven’t communicated it enough. We will tackle it in the following weeks. »