Saturday, June 12, 2010

Stolen Moments on the Porch Swing

The store is filled with images of summer; from the display bed to the colourful Needham Lane pj's and matching slippers. The colours of summer are not all that I love; I also love the slower pace.

Enjoyed our first dinner outside recently. Al fresco; picnic; or dinner on the deck - however we refer to it, moving our lives outside is such a treat when we have it for a few short months only.

I could easily spend hours on my porch swing during the day; reading, writing and watching the world go by. I wonder if this is what retirement will look like. I highly doubt it but will certainly grab any stolen moments I can over the summer.

There is something about nature that brings the creative out in me. I am blessed to live close enough to Lake Ontario to manage a walk down to it most days. During a recent walk, I was inspired to wander through the ancient cemetary instead of passing by it as usual. I took my time (that's the other thing about summer; I slow down and enjoy more). Reading the old tombstones started my mind wandering, too, to those families of old; their trials, challenges and joyous times. I can't help but think that, with the amount of work required by pioneers each day, times of peaceful rest would have been rare. But maybe, at day's end, they could steal a few moments at dusk to sit on a swing on their porch.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

In Support of our Quaint Communities

A large Toronto newspaper had an article recently about a group of consumers who promise to spend their dollars at businesses that do environmental upgrades. The retailer they had targeted for this article had been planning on making changes but didn’t have the cash flow to do so. One day of shopping by this group gave him more sales than he’d had any day previously and some much needed dollars to go forward with the changes.

This seems ironic to me because if those same people shopped at that store on a regular basis, the owner likely would have had the cash flow needed to continuously improve. A steady cash flow is needed by every independent business to stay afloat, improve and grow, which ultimately benefits everyone in the community.

As a 'shop girl' myself now, I have an intimate knowledge of retail in action. I love being part of my own community; responding to the needs and wants of my customers. But this past year has taken a toll on everyone and, in my area of the world at least, it seems we are just now seeing the fallout from the recession. It's difficult to watch so many independent businesses closing.

I found a great idea in an American magazine before last Christmas. This magazine was encouraging readers to spend $50 of their monthly budget at any local business (or combination of businesses) in their own community. Conservatively estimating 5,000 households in my own village; $50 each translates to a total $250,000 in buying power. If split between 50 businesses, this could mean as much as $5,000 each per month in cash flow. It's easy to see the collective benefit of a smallish investment by each household.

Here are some reasons why small shops and businesses need your support.

Independent retailers face a great challenge to get the attention of consumers. Large chain retailers have substantial dollars to spend on advertising. Independents are lucky to afford an ad in the local paper or flyer.

Large chain retailers are able to cut back staff hours and employee expenses to cushion slow times. Independents are usually it – there is no one else to cut back. When things are slow, we bring in less product; support fewer fundraisers in the community and cut back on any excessive expenses.

Large chain retailers have head offices in far away places with surplus dollars to cushion a slow period. Independent businesses rarely have more than enough to last a few months in slow times.

Large chain retailers don’t add to the character in a community. A simple trip across the country will show just how alike they make every city they're in. Independent businesses embody the flavour of their own communities, organizing and supporting the local activities and events.

Make a promise to yourself this month to spend that $50 and be a part of the success of your own community.