Uncertain Future For Local Businesses

Dec 1, 2015
By Carol Webster
This past week I have been meeting with many of our local businesses and I have found a very alarming trend that will destroy this community.  I know that money is tight.  I’m living that reality myself.  Robyn’s hours have been cut so drastically that we are literally living day to day; the future is so uncertain, I’m afraid to think past tomorrow.

I have watched my business slowly deteriorate and mom and I have to make some very hard decisions.  I cried when we made the decision not to carry on with the flower department.  But I understand, non-essential products and services like flowers and gifts are the first place we all cut.  So I expected to see a drop in revenue.  What scares me is the future of our entire business community.
Nothing is more frustrating than when I hear someone comment on how tired they are, having just returned home after spending $400 on groceries in Whitecourt.  Now I don’t get out of town much and  have been doing my grocery shopping at the Swan Hills Super A.  Yes on some items I do pay a little more, but comparing with others who primarily shop out of town, I don’t over pay by shopping here.  In fact I hear more and more how prices in Whitecourt and Edmonton have been steadily increasing.
I used to make the trip to Whitecourt or Barrhead for the bi-weekly shopping trips.  Did I save? Sometimes yes, but most times no, I did not.  I was exhausted after each trip, found I wasted more perishables as I was trying to buy 2 weeks worth at a time, my fuel bills doubled and I still have stuff in my cupboards that I bought years ago and never used.  Today, I stop at the Super A every day or every second day, pick up what I need for supper and usually find great deals on stuff I use all the time and stock up.  My grocery bill has decreased, I have a lot less wastage, I spend less on gas and I have a lot more time to spend in and for my community.
For those who say they cannot afford to shop local.  Have you been downtown to a local store lately to see what they have and check the prices?
No one can say they shop 100% locally, Swan Hills cannot offer everything, but to those who openly admit they don’t support local or those that say they do but really don’t, think about the future and where will you be when the services you now enjoy are gone.  Online shopping hurts us but the dollars that head down the highway could easily save our business community.
Sure, you can find deals everywhere and I have found some amazing ones right here in town.  About a month ago, I got bacon at $2.99 a package.  Had I gone to Walmart, or even Costco I would not have found it that low.  As with all shopping, I look for the sales and when I’m picking up supper, I take 10 minutes to search out the sales and have found some great deals here in Swan Hills.
The prices in Swan Hills are not outrageous as some say and our businesses offer some great deals, you just have to come out and take a look.
For those who have never operated a business before, here’s how it works.  The business owner purchases items at wholesale, marks it up and resells the items.  The more they sell, the more they can bring in.  I was approached by a large electronics chain a couple of years ago.  They wanted me to carry their product, but I would have to guarantee to buy $10,000 – $15,000 wholesale every year.  I struggled with the idea as it would have been a great service for Swan Hills, but with the support, or actually lack of support, we had seen over the previous 5 years, I could not take the chance of bringing in a product I could not guarantee to sell.
I remember when a local resident started a petition to get a Bargain Centre in Swan Hills.  Why on earth would anyone open a Bargain Centre? We have already lost a second hand store (twice), a dollar store, Fields and A.E. Sporting Goods not to mention the several other clothing stores that opened and closed due to lack of support.  I myself owned a stationery store, closed 12 years ago and the local Taxi, both closed due to low support.  I’m still amazed when someone comes in asking where the stationery is.  Haven’t been downtown in a while, eh?
All the local non-profit groups are suffering too.  And it will get worse before it gets better.  Businesses just don’t have the money to donate.  A harder pill to swallow is knowing some of those cash donations are being spent out of town.  I no longer give cash as I once did.  That changed when I found out that a non-profit group took my cash and the cash from other local businesses and purchased door prizes at Walmart.  Shocked?  Don’t be, it still happens.
But this is not all on the residents or non-profits, it is on the businesses too.  As a business owner, I try to make my personal and company’s purchases locally when I can, but it is very frustrating when my business cannot get the support back.  And makes me waver slightly in my determination to support local.  But I always hold on to my belief that a strong viable local economy equals a strong viable community.  But we have to start working together.  We have to support each other!
Think about your job, if the businesses close will you still have a job?  Will the school or hospital survive?  Without businesses, this town will deteriorate and your homes and properties will be worthless.  Far fetched scenario? Not really.  It’s already happening.
Ann Nagel brought this poem in years ago and we ran it then, but maybe it’s time to look at again.  Could this be our future?
Buy Locally
Author Unknown
Two men were quite cocky,
As they stood in the sun.
Let’s go to the city,
Stock up and have fun.
We’ll buy by the case,
All under one roof.
We’ll save lots of money,
Of that we have proof.
So just that they did,
for many a year.
And of the results,
Never did they fear.
Until one day
They did meet again
Standing uptown,
Just out of the rain.
“What’s happening here”
Cried one in dismay,
Their faces were ashen,
They had nothing to say.
The one scratched his head,
The other said aloud.
“There’s no beer, no coffee,
Where is the crowd”
My wife is real sick,
Right off of her feet.
I came for some drugs,
Some milk, and some meat.
The hospital is closed,
The grocery store too!
What in the world
Are we going to do?
“My furnace is shot,
The plumbing all broken”
The other one gasped
I thought he was chokin.
My car is a wreck,
My tires are low.
I need nails and lumber.
There’s no place to go.
His friend hung his head,
Right down to his chest.
“It’s our fault” he muttered,
“On our heads it will rest.”
We past this town by,
For glimmer and lights.
Bought stuff by the car load,
And took in the sights.
The city is busting,
And bursting with pride.
But all our merchants,
Have just up and died.
The houses are empty,
The Banks repossessed
I’ll tell you my friend,
Were in for a test.
We should have been smarter
And wiser they said.
The town would be bustling,
Not nearly so dead.
“It’s never too late”
I heard one say.
Through the folly of many,
We all have to pay.
They parted at last,
With the wind turning cold
“Buy locally” one said,
“We should have been told.”
So Swan Hills, we cannot say we haven’t been told!

Carol Webster

Carol Webster is the Editor/Publisher of The Grizzly Gazette. Beginning her newspaper career in 1989 as a typesetter for the Swan Hills Grizzly Gazette, Carol and her family were given the opportunity to purchase the weekly newspaper from Barrhead Printers and Stationers in September, 1990; bringing the publication back home to Swan Hills. As a second generation Swan Hillian, Carol continues to live in Swan Hills with her family; husband Robyn and son Aaron.

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