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Shop local decisions can make or break retailers this Christmas: Calgary retailers

Kensington BIA is urging Calgarians to consider shifting even a small portion of Christmas shopping budget to local retailers

While country and western classics might not immediately conjure visions of sugar plum fairies and Santa Claus, they are part of the Kensington BIA’s efforts this year to get Calgarians to shop locally.

On the final Saturday in November, and then for the first three Saturdays in December, the BIA will be hosting Christmas-themed parties with live music, entertainment, hot chocolate, and Santa Claus, as an enticement to get shoes through the doors of local retailers.

Or even on to a horse drawn carriage, as a different way of taking in Kensington .

“Christmas is a critical time always for small business—this is the time when they can make or break their year,” said Annie MacInnis, Executive Director for the Kensington BIA.

“So I urge Calgarians to shop local, and I’m not saying you should not do any online shopping, but even if you took like 10 or 15 per cent of your shopping and did that locally and mindfully in businesses that you love, in a place like Kensington, that makes such a difference to helping our local Calgary economy recover.”

MacInnis said that choosing to shop locally has tremendous economic impacts as well, with every $1 spent at a local business generating $6 in economic impact.

The BIA kicked off the holiday shopping season with a late-night shopping event on November 24, something she said was a way of reminding shoppers about the opportunities to do a little shopping on the way home from work, and away from busy Friday and Saturdays.

“It’s an opportunity to pop in here on your way home from work or just come down specifically,” MacInnis said.

“If you just want to come down with your family or your friends and enjoy this, none of this costs any money, and if you want to do some Christmas shopping there’s some great deals to be had out there from our Kensington businesses.”

MacInnis was quick to point out some of the local shops that Calgarians might not know exist in the BIA, like multi-vendor retailers, tea shops with handmade tea pots, women and men’s clothing shops with Christmas gift bundles, and even a place to buy a homemade PB&J sandwich.

“We have some amazing stores,” she said.

Shifting customer perceptions is good business

Nathalie Gosselin, owner and Chief Experience Designer for Vine Styles, said that efforts like the current shop local initiative by the BIA is very important to her business.

“I definitely think it makes a big difference to draw people to come to Kensington for for a reason,” she said.

“Most of our Saturdays are already very busy here because we do free tastings every Saturday afternoon… I think it’s just nice over the holiday season to have a bigger event.”

She said that customers planning for a shopping experience, as opposed to just visiting one of the local restaurants and then heading home, would make a big difference for retailers like her.

“We actually just increased our hours of operation to be until 8 p.m. for most of the week, and we haven’t really seen the positive results quite yet,” Gosselin said.

“It’s more convenient for some of our already existing customers but we’re not getting a lot more people are coming, and if they’re coming to eat dinner in Kensington regardless of where they go, more than likely they won’t be done before 8 p.m. anyway.”

She said as a business owner, having a successful Christmas is very important to her business.

“Sales wise we also need it to be a very successful season, because, especially in wine retail, a big part of our revenue is throughout November and December.”

But, said Gosselin, Christmas was also exciting time of year to be helping her customers make their Christmases special.

“I think if you don’t like the holiday season and you’re in retail, you’re definitely in the wrong area—I love Christmas,” she said.

“We look forward to seeing people, we look forward to selecting presents for them and their loved ones, and we know most of them which is kind of nice because we recommend things that really work for people that they’re buying for.”