BRAGG CREEK— With the busy holiday shopping season around the corner, chamber of commerce representatives throughout Rocky View County are reminding residents of the importance of supporting local businesses.
Saturday (Nov. 28) will mark Shop Small Saturday – a day that promotes small retailers. The day is sandwiched between Black Friday— The busiest shopping day of the year, according to investopedia.com— And Cyber Monday, which promotes shopping online.
“We’re inundated with requests to shop online on Cyber Monday and we’re inundated with requests to go to the larger storefronts and brick-and-mortar facilities on Black Friday," said Kathleen Burk, the president of the Bragg Creek and Area Chamber of Commerce. "The opportunity Shop Small Saturday would provide everybody is needed. A lot of these interesting gift ideas are unique and will stand the test of time, and perhaps even become multi-generational or sentimental. You can’t get that on Amazon. You can really only get it in these artisanal-based communities.”
The detrimental impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the small business community means the sentiment behind Shop Small Saturday is even more critical this year, Burk said.
“Support of grassroots initiatives and stores is really the foundation of what small-community living is based on," she said. "I believe it’s a responsibility for those of us who live in and enjoy these small communities to support those who have taken it upon themselves to provide those goods and services to us.”
Like many tourism-based communities, Bragg Creek's businesses were hit hard by a drop in visitors this summer. Burk said the hamlet's local members have persevered in the face of adversity caused by the pandemic.
“I see resiliency and a real sense of comeback and adjustment," she said. "Perhaps overhead has been adjusted to reflect lower numbers. When people come out, they’re spending money, and the merchants are so grateful to provide valuable goods and services to earn that spend. I see a comeback and a big learning curve has gone on.
"I’m so proud of our businesses and what they’ve been able to accomplish in the last seven months – it’s unbelievable.”
North of Bragg Creek, the Town of Cochrane's Economic Development department is supporting the concept of Shop Small Saturday with its annual Shop Cochrane Gift Guide. The document, which is published every year in the lead up to the holidays, encourages residents to do their Christmas shopping at local retailers.
Kelly Sinclair, the Cochrane and District Chamber of Commerce president, said shopping locally is one of the bedrocks of a community.
“Local businesses are made up of our neighbours and friends," she said. "These are the people we see every day around our community, who give back to our community and make it a great place to live."
With so many people staying at home, one of the many consequences of the pandemic has been an increased reliance on online shopping – a shift in purchasing habits that has benefited large e-commerce companies, such as Amazon. According to an article by Forbes, the Seattle-based e-commerce giant's stock value increased more than 60 per cent between January and July, and its market capitalization increased by $570 billion. A Business Insider piece stated that in July, Amazon reported record sales in the second quarter of the year.
While choosing to buy and order products online is a way to limit in-person interactions and help reduce the spread of COVID-19, Sinclair said many local retailers have adapted their business models to accommodate this change in customer behaviour.
“If you look hard, you can find almost everything you need within [your community]," she said. "A lot of businesses have been very flexible in allowing for phoning in orders, curbside pick-up and some are even doing deliveries. Even small businesses have expanded into e-commerce in a lot of cases. You can safely shop within the community, without having to go to the big guys like Amazon.”