According to a frequently repeated mantra, buying locally is the royal road to prosperity. Local merchants invest in the community in numerous ways, including paying taxes and supporting countless civic causes. They also provide jobs and their employees recycle paycheques back into the economy.
But let’s not forget that shopping locally is not an obligation. Merchants have to earn customer loyalty.
When the Japanese auto invasion ramped up during the 1970s and ’80s the “Big Three” North American auto makers told consumers to “buy the cars your neighbours build,” despite the fact that many Ford, Chrysler and GM vehicles rolling off assembly lines in those days turned out to be lemons. The result was an exodus of buyers to Honda and Toyota dealerships, where higher quality and exceptional service were the rule.
Competition is stiff in the commercial marketplace. The Sea to Sky Highway upgrade has given shoppers faster access to the Lower Mainland with its broader selection and the lure of better deals. Amazon’s invasion of the retail marketplace has steered consumers from bricks-and-mortar stores to web-based shopping at the click of a mouse. With Amazon’s ever-expanding list of available products online and an efficient delivery process, many traditional stores are scrambling to keep up.
At one time, consumers in Squamish were subjected to retail encounters that were all over the road map, with some merchants in need of a sizeable attitude adjustment. Of course, as we all know, the shopping experience is a two-way street. Customers can be overly demanding and in some cases inconsiderate and rude.
These days, from one end of town to the other, there is more selection and more consideration is being given to customer satisfaction than ever before.
But there is room for improvement.
One major local food store has numerous checkout lanes available but frequently only opens two, resulting in long lineups at certain times. The reason, according to one source, is the high staff absentee rate, especially on weekends. Another explanation is management saves money by cutting back on active checkouts. The trade-off is bigger profits for the store and a growing legion of frustrated shoppers who will buy elsewhere when the opportunity arises.
Shoppers also complain that prices for many everyday food items are higher in town than in North or West Vancouver. The official explanation is that it costs more to truck goods up here. Still, unless merchants start absorbing a larger portion of those expenses, many consumers will continue to make the pilgrimage to Costco in Burnaby or Vancouver. Notwithstanding those shortcomings, when we look at the overall picture, there has never been a better time to boost the Squamish marketplace.