Let’s try to keep some of the Christ­mas free-for-all to our­selves

Seaway News - - EDITORIAL & OPINIONS - Todd Li­hou

Guess what this week is. I’ll give you a hint – it’s big­ger than a bread box, and is likely to be­come the cen­tre of your universe for the fore­see­able fu­ture.

Give up? It’s the of­fi­cial start to the Christ­mas shop­ping sea­son and if the ex­perts are to be be­lieved this is the time of year that makes ( and some­times breaks) the en­tire fis­cal cal­en­dar.

Black Fri­day, the day af­ter the U. S. Thanks­giv­ing, marks the be­gin­ning of the free- for- all, and many Cana­di­ans will be in the thick of fight­ing for the lat­est Christ­mas bar­gain.

A poll com­pleted by the Bank of Mon­treal says 47 per cent of Cana­di­ans it sur­veyed planned on shop­ping on Black Fri­day this year – up from 41 per cent last year.

Each of those shop­pers, sug­gested polling data, is ex­pected to fork over an av­er­age of $292.

While the poll didn’t ask specif­i­cally where the shop­pers planned to spend their money, chances are you know some­one, maybe even a bunch of peo­ple, who are head­ing south this weekend to buy Christ­mas gifts.

It’s the type of thing that makes lo­cal mer­chants see red ( and not just be­cause of Santa’s getup).

I’ve heard from more than a few lo­cal re­tail­ers, the type that op­er­ate a tightly- knit busi­ness in­stead of af­fil­i­at­ing them­selves with a na­tional cor­po­ra­tion, that the Black Fri­day hype is killing the lit­tle guy.

I agree, it is. The deals be­ing of­fered in the U. S. - and more im­por­tantly the hype as­so­ci­ated with all the Black Fri­day mumbo jumbo - has cre­ated the per­cep­tion of some­thing that shouldn’t be missed, lest you find your­self with sub- par Christ­mas gifts or an in­flated credit card state­ment.

And the skin is wear­ing pretty thin among some lo­cal busi­ness own­ers. I re­cently heard a story of how the wife of a city mer­chant got plenty peeved at a bunch of her ac­quain­tances who couldn’t wait to get to the U.S. for all the Black Fri­day deals.

The wife, I am told, let her friends know in no un­cer­tain terms that such a phi­los­o­phy came with a price for lo­cal mer­chants. If peo­ple aren’t spend­ing their money here, then where are lo­cal mer­chants ex­pected to find it?

And what hap­pens in the spring when those same peo­ple who went to Massena to buy Christ­mas gifts come to the counter and ask a lo­cal mer­chant to spon­sor their child’s base­ball team?

Loy­alty is a two- way street, and I can un­der­stand the frus­tra­tion be­ing ex­pressed pri­vately by lo­cal mer­chants who see their clients at­tempt­ing to talk out of both sides of their mouth.

Look, I get that cross-bor­der shop­ping and the draw of bet­ter deals in the United States makes it dif­fi­cult to say no. I’ve pur­chased items in Massena in the past – and I’m sure I’ll do it again in the fu­ture.

But I think our friends in South Stor­mont, specif­i­cally the cham­ber of com­merce, are on to some­thing.

They’ve come up with some­thing called “Shift 10” – a cam­paign to get peo­ple to spend at least 10 per cent of their money lo­cally, in­stead of online or in the U.S.

Of course it’s just words. No one group, even the mighty South Stor­mont Cham­ber of Com­merce, can force you to spend your money any­where.

But they make a good point, and want to make friends in­stead of en­e­mies.

“We can’t blame our cus­tomers for shop­ping in the com­fort of their own home, in their PJs, where pur­chases are de­liv­ered right to their door,” Donna Primeau, the cham­ber’s pres­i­dent, said of online shop­ping specif­i­cally. “But if you don’t come through our front door then we might not be there later on to sup­port other projects.”

Her com­ment shouldn’t be in­ter­preted as a threat – just a fact that with­out lo­cal sup­port, it’s dif­fi­cult to ex­pect a busi­ness to sur­vive.

The cam­paign’s soft launch across all of SD and G is tak­ing place right now, as peo­ple be­gin their Christ­mas bo­nanza, while a grand un­veil­ing is sched­uled for the spring.

The Corn­wall and Area Cham­ber of Com­merce has also launched a “Shop at Home for the Hol­i­days” cam­paign. It is us­ing Pin­ter­est and en­cour­ag­ing mer­chants to for­ward pho­tos or links of items for sale so that they can be fea­tured at pin­ter­est. com/ cham­ber­corn­wall.

I en­cour­age you to fol­low the di­rec­tion be­ing of­fered by lo­cal mer­chants.

It’s a fact that online shop­ping, Black Fri­day and the lure of mas­sive U. S. stores – with their huge in­ven­to­ries and prox­im­ity to the bor­der – are here to stay.

I can’t tell you not to go. But if you can sup­port a lo­cal busi­ness in­stead of tak­ing your money out of Corn­wall, why not do just that?

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