I’m generally not one for hyperbole, so please bear with me for a moment. Still, I can’t help reflecting on how the upcoming holiday shopping season will be of “do or die” level importance to so many local businesses.
It’s sunny and warm outside my window as I write this, so it’s a bit incongruous to be thinking about decking the halls, silver bells, and the like but I have a background in retail and old habits die hard.
For many years I was in the specialty retail space selling snowboards. Every Thanksgiving weekend would end with me raking the leaves at home, packing up as much inventory as possible into a trailer and heading for the Toronto Ski Show. You see, for my business and (I have since learned) many others, holiday shopping made up nearly 40% of my annual gross sales. The Ski Show was our kickoff event in many ways, but the month of December alone constituted 25% of gross revenue every year.
When I think back to the financial exposure involved with stocking up to alarming limits, once again more or less betting that winter would be snowy and shoppers would be merry and then imagine the impact last year’s COVID restrictions would have had on my business, I’m awash with empathy for those still out there making it happen this year. I admire their resilience and optimism as they head into another holiday shopping season, hoping we’ve arrived at some stable “new normal.”
With all of this in mind, your Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce team has been working closely with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and our other local chambers and boards of trade on a “Shop Local” campaign. The initiative is a coordinated, ongoing marketing campaign that you’ll be seeing across the social channels of all our organizations. As Chamber members, I know I don’t have to convince you of the importance of shopping local; many of you already have the commendable practice of doing business with each other regularly or sourcing new ways to do business with more fellow members, and we celebrate that.
This post is meant more as a call to action. We want you to help us spread the word because we know that this holiday season it’s more urgent than ever to encourage our friends and neighbours to do business with each other.
It’s no exaggeration to say that local businesses are hubs of community building. This has been true of Oshawa since it was a cluster of buildings constructed around a fur trading outpost on Gifford Hill near our harbour front. Local businesses are more than purveyors of widgets; they are cultural anchoring points whose combined work is a vast part of what gives a town its unique sense of place. We know that we need them – let’s show them that we also appreciate them.
(You can show your support and help promote this initiative on social media by adding the hashtags #shopOshawa, #OshawaLovesLocal, #shoplocal and #shopindurham )
Jason King is the CEO of the Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce