The Free Press Editorial

Good news for local businesses. According to a new Ipsos Reid poll conducted on behalf of RBC, the average Canadian expects to spend $1,182 on holiday purchases.

Four in five (82 per cent) of Canadians plan on giving gifts to others this holiday season. British Columbians say they think they will spend more on gifts this year than they did last year. When people are loosening the purse strings in this way, it is a good sign that things are starting to recover economically.

Fifty-six per cent of people say they will be using their credit cards to buy their presents.

What the poll didn’t tell us is exactly where people plan to flex their plastic. While it’s good news for the Canadian economy that people are preparing to get out and spend more than last year on Christmas items, it’s not so good if they are planning on spending it out of country, or province. The lure of internet shopping, and the valley’s proximity to the US and Alberta borders makes it especially challenging for Elk Valley businesses to persuade people to shop locally for their presents.

Black Friday in Fernie was a great success, and most businesses reported being much busier than usual, shoppers keen to snap up some bargains.

It was a great example of how businesses can get together to promote themselves. Why just save it for once a year? Give customers the service they can’t get over the internet or at the big box stores. Offer locals discounts, give them advice, make them feel valued and they will come back.

As Mark from The Guide’s Hut noted, people coming in to his store to check out the Black Friday deals ended up buying non-sale items. The key is getting people in the store in the first place.

I hope local businesses will try extra hard to catch customers’ attention this holiday season, by offering deals, choice and great customer service.

In return, customers, make the local businesses your first stop for Christmas shopping. Christmas shouldn’t be a time when the priority is getting the best bang for your buck. It’s not about the amount of money you spend on a present, but the thought and time that goes into it. What Christmas presents do you remember receiving? The memorable ones are rarely the big electronic gifts bought from a big box store, but the ones that were more personal, and had thought put into them.

On a more practical note, buying local means it makes things much easier if you have any problems with your purchase, or if the recipient wants an exchange. Who wants to wait two weeks to get an exchange from a company in Texas when you could just pop downtown in a few minutes?

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