Many smaller, independent businesses may face closure if B.C. shoppers don’t make a strong effort to buy local this holiday season.
So warn backers of B.C. Buy Local Week, which started Monday (Nov. 30) and continues until Dec. 6, as “an annual celebration of the unique contributions that B.C. businesses make to our economy.”
The ninth annual initiative encourages consumers to do their holiday spending at locally-owned businesses, to keep businesses open after being severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Local businesses are just hanging on, and really need our support at this time,” says Amy Robinson, founder and executive director of LOCO BC, which co-ordinates the Buy Local Week campaign in the province.
“Retail sales this year have plummeted, while online shopping with multinationals has soared. BC Buy Local Week is a great time to start shifting your shopping towards local businesses when making your holiday purchases, including buying gifts, gift cards, food or drinks.”
Ed Holden operates the Christmas Store at Potters, a 28,000-square-foot destination store at 192nd Street and 48th Avenue in Surrey.
“I buy stuff on Amazon and websites, too, because sometimes you just can’t find it in stores,” Holden said. “But there’s not much we don’t have here, and we try to the make the shopping experience fun. We have some locally made products, a good mix.”
The garden shop’s Christmas store first opened 16 years ago as a way to keep staff employed year-round, he said.
“This has worked really well for us, and it’s a fun time of year for us,” said Holden, who lives in White Rock. “We put on a lot of extra staff at Christmas, and employees from the other stores come here to work.”
This year year the store layout has changed, with wider aisles and other COVID-19 protocols.
“There isn’t a lot of things for people to do this Christmas,” Holden noted, “so we try to have something here for everyone. Someone wrote that you know, ‘You can go there, you don’t have to pay to get in and it’s free, something to do.’ Well, I’d never thought of it that way.”
Meantime, in the absence of an in-person trade show this year, Surrey-based operators of the West Coast Christmas Show have launched “e-Shops” as an online shopping portal for products made and sold by local artisans and business operators.
Event producer Heather Angeard long ago resigned herself to the cancellation of the event, typically held at Abbotsford’s TradeEx facility, due to COVID-19 health restrictions on visitor attendance at such gatherings.
Angeard said she’s been troubled by the financial hardship the cancellation would have on the nearly 300 vendors, a large percentage of them “small homegrown businesses and artisans from throughout the province who rely each year on live events to find customers for their products.”
West Coast Christmas Show typically attracts 19,000 visitors each year.
To create the e-Shop, she had to develop an entirely new web platform directly tied to westcoastchristmasshow.com.
“The website has always enjoyed huge visitor numbers, as people would check the site for more information on the upcoming event and the lineup of vendors and even some of the products and artifacts that they would be selling at the show,” Angeard said.
E-commerce is a key to Surrey Store to Door, launched last spring in response to the pandemic, as a place where Surrey-area residents can shop online from businesses close to home. The directory now involves 523 businesses, who register for free, and has attracted more than 36,200 shoppers to date.
“I’d say the bulk of them are Surrey residents, so we’re seeing local residents rise up and support their local businesses,” said Stephen Wu, Surrey’s manager of economic development.
A recent revamp of the Store to Door website includes special deals along with additional retailers and service providers.
“We have a lot of personal-care services with gift cards, fashion, jewelers, quite a diverse number of business, including counselling for mental health services,” Wu noted.
“I think this shows there’s a lot of appetite and appreciation that the city is helping to promote local businesses in the community.”
Surrey’s Downtown Business Association is part of an “Open With Care” campaign urging Surrey residents to shop locally in a show of support for businesses that are taking a “significant economic hit” on account of the pandemic. The BIA’s website includes a Business Directory of 1,400 members, at downtownsurreybia.com.
Surrey Councillor Allison Patton, on behalf of Mayor Doug McCallum, read out a proclamation at the Nov. 23 meeting concerning BC Buy Local Week.
“Purchasing goods and services from locally owned businesses strengthens the local economy, fosters community and contributes to a greener province,” Patton said.
with file from Tom Zytaruk