Christmas season in Burns Lake: ‘It’s been slow for us merchants’

Gift certificate program’s sales decreasing

While a recent survey that involved 52 local businesses suggested a positive outlook in Burns Lake, some businesses are hurting.

Wayne Brown, owner of Process 4 circle arts Gallery, said this Christmas season didn’t generate as many sales compared with previous years.

“It’s been very slow for all of us as merchants,” said Brown. “People aren’t shopping [locally] like they used to.”

Brown said factors such as favourable weather, which allows people to drive to bigger centres to shop, and online shopping have been the biggest obstacles.

“This online shopping has killed retail in small towns,” Brown said. “There are so many Amazon boxes going through that post office, it’s just ridiculous. If things don’t change in five years time, you won’t see small shops.”

Meanwhile campaigns that encourage local shopping have not been enough to turn the tide for small businesses, he said.

One exception, said Brown, was the Plaid Friday event, held on Nov. 29, when his business had 94 people coming in.

“That was a wonderful event, very successful, but other than that it’s been tough,” Brown said.

But not every business in Burns Lake is experiencing a decline in sales.

Greg Brown, owner of the Burns Lake Home Hardware, said the amount of sales this season is comparable to that of last year’s.

Paul Hilliard, owner of Woods n’ Water, said this season’s sales were satisfactory, but that he hasn’t yet compared them with previous years.

The vast majority of businesses (86 per cent) that participated in Burns Lake’s latest Business Walk, conducted between Oct. 24-25, said their operations have been “steady” or “increasing.”

READ MORE: Survey suggests ‘positive outlook’ in Burns Lake

But the sales of local gift certificates, designed to keep shopping dollars in the Lakes District, have taken a hit.

The Burns Lake and District Chamber of Commerce sold $53,584 worth of gift certificates in 2017; $31,600 in 2018; and as of Dec. 17, it has sold $26,435 in 2019, said Randi Amendt, the Chamber’s executive director.

“We have seen a decrease over the last three years and the main reason would be the larger businesses in our community have not been purchasing as many for their employees for the holiday season,” Amendt said, adding that about 75 per cent of gift certificate sales take place during the Christmas season.

Launched in November 2015, the local gift certificates program allows people to shop at 23 different local businesses.

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