If you discount it, they will come.
That seems to be the message from Moonlight Madness, which saw hundreds of people flock downtown looking for deals Friday night. Pretty much every store was packed with locals getting a start on their Christmas shopping
Shop local is an age-old slogan. The Revelstoke newspaper promoted local shopping 100 years ago. Back then, Revelstoke was a major Interior community, as isolated as it was. The main competition for local stores was likely the Eaton’s catalogue.
Over time, shopping options for locals have increased. The opening of the Trans-Canada Highway in 1962 made trips to the Okanagan, Calgary and Vancouver much easier. The advent of shopping malls and big box stores meant more options and more deals.
And then came the Internet, which transformed everything, everywhere. After all, its cheaper to operate a warehouse than a storefront.
All that puts stress on local stores, which need to compete with a vastly larger market, despite having higher operating costs, the result of being small stores in small towns that can’t benefit as much from buying in bulk.
“’Shop local’, that’s a tough word. It’s almost like its been over done a little bit,” said Mike Gravelle at Skookum Cycle & Ski. “The one thing that changed my view on thinking about it was that Ten Percent Shift video.”
The Ten Percent Shift is the latest shop local gambit. It was started Barry O’Neill, the president of the B.C. chapter of the Canadian Union of Public Employees. The basic idea is that if you shift 10 per cent of your out-of-town spending to local purchases, you’ll provide great support to local business owners and the local economy.
The Shift has been picked up by various towns across B.C. and is being promoted by the Revelstoke Chamber of Commerce.
“That video wasn’t in your face and it was telling you you can shop out of town, but its telling you 10 per cent in town, what it does,” said Gravelle.
Community support isn’t always reason enough to get someone to shop local. Often, it comes down to dollars and finding the best deal. Different stores use different tactics to bring in locals, and keep them coming back.
At Style Trends, owners Steve and Dianne Bull emphasized getting to know their customers so they have an idea of what people are looking for when they come in.
“A lot of the times people will come in looking for something for a relative, their daughter or son or mum, and we can look up all the sizing in our computer,” said Dianne. “It takes a little bit of the guess work out of it just to have that knowledge of the locals.”
They are also concerned about pricing and said they stock brands where the price is set by the manufacturer – that way they know they won’t get undercut by stores elsewhere. “I think sometimes small towns get the reputation for having things overpriced so we try to avoid that by just following suggested retail pricing,” said Dianne. The only time we get beat now is if its online. We don’t know how they price, but online is a whole other beast.”
At Skookum, Gravelle pointed out the after-purchase services they offer – things like ski boot fittings and free tune-ups. “The labour, the warranty, customer service part of things is big. Going back to Venron to return a pair of boots is not cost effective,” he said. “You’re wasting a day driving to Vernon instead of being on the hill.”
He also said he spends 25 hours a week in the office looking for the best price on purchases.
Sometimes, the discounts still rule. I stopped in at Work n’ Play, where owner Lawrence Rebalkin almost always seems to have something on sale. For Moonlight Madness, everything was 20 per cent off.
“You won’t find another store in town with a deal like this,” he boasted. “Everyone that comes in here will leave happy.”