Lakes District News and chamber work to change shopping behaviours

“If we keep shopping out of town, how will there ever be local businesses here?”

Lakes District News and the Burns Lake and District Chamber of Commerce have been working to change shopping behaviours in the Lakes District.

With Christmas just around the corner, Lakes District News launched a Christmas contest to entice people to shop local. The Bulkley Valley Credit Union was generous enough to step up and donate the prize money of $1000.

Together, Lakes District News and the Burns Lake and District Chamber of Commerce purchased a 32 inch flat screen TV to give away to a lucky shopper on Mistletoe Mania night (Burns Lake’s late night shopping).

“Although this is not going to stop people from shopping out of town, it does help give incentive for people to shop local,” said Laura Blackwell, Publisher of Lakes District News. “I just want to remind people that these local businesses, including Lakes District News and the chamber of commerce, donate a great deal of money to local events and clubs such as minor hockey and I see countless ‘thank yous’ in the paper every week thanking a local business for their contribution to some worthy cause in Burns Lake. This year the Burns Lake Rotary Club raised over $35,000, you can’t do that without a whole lot of donations.”

“Perhaps you can’t do all your shopping in Burns Lake, but at least try to do some [shopping] and give back to those local businesses who give so much all year long.”

Chamber manager Susan Schienbein said Lakes District residents need to change the pattern of driving to another community to purchase their goods.

“We often hear, ‘I shop out of town because there aren’t enough retail choices here,’ but if we keep shopping out of town and online, how will there ever be local businesses here?” said Schienbein. “Unless people want to live in a ghost town, they have to support the merchants who ply their trade here or quite simply, they won’t exist.”

According to LOCO B.C., a non-profit local business alliance, sales to local businesses recirculate many times locally, producing a ripple effect. For every $1 of purchasing, local economies receive $2.6 in economic impact from local employment and purchasing to local suppliers and service providers.

Furthermore, any negative impact on local businesses will also ripple through local communities, negatively affecting employment, business-to-business suppliers, local growers, local manufacturers and government tax revenues.

“Some people will say that we don’t have enough retail stores, and they are right, we could use some more,” said Schienbein. “But investors who might be thinking about setting up shop in Burns Lake will talk to the local business community; if our current businesses are concerned about residents not shopping locally, that has a negative spin-off for potential investors.”

Schienbein said the chamber has been concerned about the smaller number of retail businesses in the Lakes District and have been trying to understand if this is a community issue or broader in scope.

According to a 2013 study by Civic Economics, the market share for Canadian independent retailers slowly eroded over the most recent three-year period for which data were available – 2008 to 2010. While most sectors were relatively stable over that period, sporting goods, hobbies, books and music stores saw a substantial decline in 2010.

“There is no magic bullet, no one solution; it’s a combination of many tools,” said Schienbein. “The community needs to understand that purchases made outside of this community don’t pay taxes to the Village of Burns Lake so that it can improve and increase services.”

Since municipalities have few means to raise revenue, commercial property taxes provide the most benefit to residents, paying for community centres, water and sewers, road repairs and other necessary services.

“Purchases made outside of this community don’t support local non-profit and community groups; purchases made outside of this community don’t help your teenagers get a part-time job after school; purchases made outside of this community don’t help investors consider investing in new businesses in this community,” said Schienbein.


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