This year’s Christmas might be confined to homes without any parties or gatherings but that hasn’t stopped the Burns Lake community from shopping, especially locally.
Local stores like Yarn and Sew On, Woods N’ Water, Wild Roots Flowers and Gifts and Lakes Artisan Centre have seen a lot more people coming in this year and contributing to the local economy.
Linda Uchacz of Yarn and Sew On has seen more people walk through her doors than previous years.
“Things are going great because people have the time to do craft and they have time to teach themselves to sew, and they are bringing out their sewing machines, making masks, making gifts for Christmas, teaching themselves how to knit and crochet,” she said, adding that one of the reasons for an increase in the fabric sales has been the mandatory masks.
“Masks are mandatory and in order to make them, you need fabric from a fabric store and normally they wouldn’t be buying so much fabric and of course, once they come in, they see other fabric for other things they could make and they buy extra,” said Uchacz.
Uchacz is also hoping to start classes next year, with less number of people at a time or even online via Zoom.
“Keep up the desire to make homemade gifts out of fabrics and yarn,” she said, adding “I just would like to thank the community for their support because they definitely have supported me through COVID. And being leery about travelling, they are buying locally and that makes a huge difference.”
The travel restrictions and the pandemic has become a motivator for many in the community to shop local, agrees Paul Hilliard of Woods N’ Water.
“It has been nuts; way better than last year. Thank you for keeping it local; all the people that are coming in and supporting us, my heart is just…you have no idea. All other businesses are going under around the country but here in Burns Lake, we are being supported by our community, and I can’t say thank you enough,” he said.
Hilliard’s shop has been so busy that several times this year, he has run out of stock and has had to procure more items to ensure he has his shelves full.
Wild Roots Flowers and Gifts, which opened its doors last year in May, has also seen a lot of customers this year. While owner Bryanne White chalks up a lot of the footfall to familiarity with the community, she also acknowledged that with travel restrictions, people have been preferring to keep things local.
“We are busy; people have been very supportive and we have been quite lucky because people have been sending a lot of flowers because they can’t visit,” said White, adding “we get to do what we love, because people shop here.”
For the Lakes Artisan Centre, while the business hasn’t been booming like the others, it hasn’t gone down either.
Liz-Anna of Lakes Artisan Centre said that while she can’t be sure how this year’s Christmas shopping has been compared to last year, it definitely has been on par with last year.
“It seems like there are a number of people shopping locally that aren’t wanting to shop out of town something they normally would have done,” she said.
However, not all businesses have experienced an increase in Christmas-time shopping locally. Wayne Brown of Process 4 Gallery said that the business has been going “like a yo-yo” with some days busy as normal, but others completely dead.
“Normally from Thanksgiving on-wards, I am framing up a storm because people are wanting to get gifts ready for Christmas. But compared to normal, it isn’t even close. Quite honestly, last year wasn’t all great but it certainly beat this year,” he said.
Brown believes that a few factors could have affected this drop in shopping this year.
“I believe there are several things that are a problem – COVID being number one, number two people are still going to Prince George to shop which I still don’t understand. Third, the weather; the roads are so good this year that of course they are going to the bigger cities to shop. And last thing, probably the primary issue, is Amazon. They have killed small retail,” he said.
Brown however remained grateful to those who did shop from his store.
“They are the ones that have allowed me to stay in business,” he said.
Numerous surveys show that local businesses that are owned by people who live in the community, are less likely to leave, and are more invested in the community’s future. Shopping at local businesses creates more local jobs than shopping at major chain or online companies.