Do you have the best intentions of sticking to the local streets for your holiday shopping this year? Or do you commit annually or, even year round, to doing so? Shopping local has many long and short-term benefits. Some seem more obvious than others, but one thing is certain: the results are positive. This year, the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce continues its incentive to entice shoppers to stay in town with its Try Home First campaign, but there are only a few days left to be rewarded.
Port Alberni is complete with a good selection of needs, including clothing stores, repair shops, gift stores and restaurants, all operated by small business owners. It is tough these days for the little guys to stay open, faced with box-store competition and online retailers. The best thing we can all do to help the community survive and prosper is to stay close to home and shop here.
Keeping your dollars in town helps to create a stronger economy. Local businesses are able to hire local employees, contractors, and financial advisors.
“The benefits are significant in that every dollar we spend in town stays in town,” said Bill Collette, executive director of the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce. “Those dollars go to business reinvestment, job creation, and many of those dollars get distributed back in town via donations to other groups. Our businesses have to be successful and each of us has to ‘own’ part of that success. We cannot expect a store to be there for us if we won’t be there for them. And we all have to practice what we preach. We cannot tell our customers to shop local if we don’t shop local.”
It is also better for the environment. Cutting down on travel reduces unnecessary carbon emissions and eating area-grown food contributes to sustainability. Just by travelling on foot or by bike once a week to run errands will make a difference in your gas tank. Replacing human power for a 16-km round trip by car each week will reduce your driving by about 837 km per year.
Local gallery owner, Cheryl Iwanowsky said more and more people are learning about Blue Fish Gallery on 2nd Avenue. For her, this year has been busier than last and she uses face-to-face conversation to promote not only her shop, but local artisans.
“We help people understand who and what they are supporting when they buy from
us,” she said. “For example, we explain that the artists are from Vancouver Island, what their history is, and how the items are made.”
She said the mix of small businesses make Port Alberni what it is.
“These small businesses contribute to Port Alberni’s diversity and multiculturalism in a way that large corporations cannot,” Iwanowsky said. “We live what we believe, and are like little families that work and care together on a more personal level.”
Jody Roberts, who helps businesses promote their products and services on social media, feels it is important for all businesses to have an online presence.
“I personally used the hashtag #thinklocalfirst on all my posts as a reminder to the community to shop local,” Roberts said.
She suggests spreading tips for gift giving ideas, promotions offered and greetings from staff. Contests also drive traffic to Facebook pages.
The Chamber aims to veer away from the phrase “shop local”. Its Try Home First program, now in its fourth year, is geared at giving the public a chance to win prizes for giving local shopping a ‘try’. The program has been ramped up each year in terms of the prize purse and number of businesses participating. From December 1 to 24, shoppers at 91 businesses are being randomly selected to win gift cards and further draws will be held in January.
Collette said the success of the program is attributed to the business community and those supporting it.
“Port Alberni is really fortunate in that we pretty much have everything we need in town,” he said. “And, in many cases, we have significant choice in town. Almost every business out there is doing something for the betterment of the community. Each owner out there has a personal passion that they are committed to and through their business they often support local events and charities. They cannot do that if their sales don’t allow them the option to. That’s where the public comes in.”
Act quick, though, there are only four shopping days left until Christmas.