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