Communities everywhere are putting higher emphasis on shopping local this holiday season due to the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on businesses across the country and around the world.
In Kitimat, many local businesses are changing up their plans for the holiday season to try to keep sales up, while maintaining COVID-19 protocols.
Angela Eastman, who runs Collections and Programming at Kitimat Museum & Archives, said they made some changes to their annual Christmas gift store to try to accommodate people and protocols this year.
“This year we started a little earlier because there aren’t as many craft fairs going on, most notably unfortunately the Riverlodge Craft Fair,” Eastman said.
“Usually, we have an evening opening, and last year we welcomed over 200 people in the building during our opening. But this year we had to forego the actual opening due to COVID.”
Along with the usual safety protocols, Eastman said they decided to run with a policy of six people in the building at a given time, with three upstairs and three downstairs, to help ensure distancing.
Eastman added that even with the safety measures in place, sales have still been pretty good this year as people start their holiday shopping.
“Definitely our numbers are not what they were in past years, but everybody seems to be looking for Christmas gifts and, yeah, we’ve had fairly steady sales,” she said.
Cooks Jewellers’ Debora Pacheco said they’ve been changing up with COVID-19 protocols, too, limiting the amount of customers allowed in at once and making sure they sanitize everything.
“People still can try on jewellery, but we clean everything after,” Pacheco said.
Pacheco said their sales have dipped in the past few months, but are still fairly comparable to past years, thankfully.
“Not as good as last year,” she said, “but the town was a little bit slow for a while, so I could say it’s picking up now, especially because of Christmas.”
The District of Kitimat (DoK) and the Chamber of Commerce are also partnering to help out local businesses this holiday season with a ‘Focus Local’ campaign, which started Nov. 27., Plaid Friday, a day which shifts the notion of Black Friday to encourage people to shop local during the holidays.
In the four weeks leading up to Christmas, the campaign will be giving away around $10,000 in prizes to Kitimat community members in the form of gift baskets, ‘Love Bucks’ for ‘Love Kitimat’ businesses, gift cards, and more.
Part of the campaign includes gift cards of $25, $50, and even $100 being sent out to random addresses around Kitimat, Mike Dewar, Director of Economic Development at the DoK, said.
“So we’re encouraging everyone to check your mailboxes, see if you’ve won anything, and if you have, you get free local shopping spree that’s just been sent to you in the mail out of nowhere by, you know, Santa or Santa’s little helpers,” Dewar said.
The DoK and the Chamber will also have ‘Love Kitimat’ swag for customers at various Love Kitimat businesses and at the DoK offices at City Centre Mall. Dewar said the goal of the campaign is to encourage people to shop local to help out the Kitimat businesses, and be rewarded for doing so.
“It’s just another way of encouraging people to focus local this shopping season and support local businesses, and also, through doing such, gain some rewards,” Dewar said.
“A lot of our businesses have been very successful in adapting their models and being able to, you know, survive, and also some thrive through this pandemic model,” he added. “But it has definitely impacted a lot of businesses that are struggling to adjust to the challenges of COVID and, you know, also the challenges of people shifting their shopping habits and the challenges of just our changing times through this whole pandemic situation.”
Pacheco said she feels it’s important to shop local to support those small businesses people know and love in the community.
“[It’s important to shop local] to support the small businesses, especially, because it’s very easy to go to Terrace or shop online, but we do have stores in town that need support from the community.”
Eastman said that, like many businesses, the shopping that people do at the Museum directly affects their operations, and money from the Christmas gift store also directly impacts the vendors.
“All of the money that people spend here, in our Christmas gift store and our gift store in general actually help us keep the doors open,” Eastman said. “We charge all of our vendors a table fee, and then 100 per cent of the money that is spent on our local vendors ware goes to them. So actually, whatever is spent on the vendors items is money that will actually go to the vendors, we just take the table fee.”
Dewar said that, especially around the holidays — the season of giving — shopping local is an easy way to give back to the local Kitimat community.
“Kitimat businesses have been there for the community and they add to the vibrancy and the fabric of our community through good times and through bad times and they’ve been there to support us, whether it’s supporting charities, whether it’s supporting local sports teams, whether it’s just providing us with the services that we so dearly need in our community,” Dewar said.
“And now is the time that a lot of businesses are struggling with the challenges of COVID-19, as are many of us in general. But right now is the perfect opportunity to look at alternative ways of spending our hard-earned money to support our local community by supporting our local businesses,” he added. “Tis the season to focus local”
Visit the DoK and Kitimat Chamber of Commerce, or their Facebook pages, and your local Kitimat businesses for more information on the campaign and for ways you can shop local and help support the Kitimat community this holiday season.