By Breanne Massey

Pioneer Staff

Local businesses in the Columbia Valley might feel the economic pinch this holiday season if frugal shoppers continue dashing to Cranbrook or Calgary to buy inexpensive products.

The Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce (CVCC) executive director Susan Clovechok urges the community to be conscious about their shopping habits by looking to local retailers and reminds of the importance of supporting small businesses.

Most people that live in the valley get that it is important to support our friends and neighbours, said Mrs. Clovechok. We have so many great shops throughout the Columbia Valley that you can find virtually everything you need or want without the expense of travelling to larger centres. In the Visitor Centre, we often have people stopping in from Cranbrook and Golden and they tell us they come here for the shopping because we have so many unique retail shops that they can find whatever they need here.

Not only does shopping locally aid entrepreneurs by allowing them to keep money circulating in the community, Mrs. Clovechok added, it helps fund family-oriented activities throughout

the year.

Local retailers do so much to support all the worthy causes throughout the valley that they deserve the opportunity earn our business and that means we need to make the effort to stop into local retailers and see what they have to offer, she explained. It is my experience that Columbia Valley retailers provide great service, great products at good value. When we support local businesses, we enable the opportunity for businesses to not only support worthy causes, but also to expand their product offering and improve the services that they offer.

It is widely acknowledged that Columbia Valley retailers depend heavily on tourism to stay afloat during the peak season.

The local retailers do rely heavily on the visitors to the Columbia Valley, but have some very unique offerings for our own residents, said Peter Smith, president of the Fairmont Business Association, who represents over 60 businesses in Fairmont Hot Springs. Theres a great chance to check out the retail offerings at Fairmont on Friday, December 11th when many of the merchants are open late with many Christmas offerings. One of the other unique parts of shopping locally is evident on nights such as this when a great deal of socializing is done as people bump into folks they know from the valley not something you get to do in the other larger centres.

Mr. Smith noted many of Fairmonts unique businesses such as the Purple Cow Gift Shop, La Galleria II, Fairmont Resorts Brewers Market (currently operating as the Christmas Market) and the Poolside Gift Shop, and the Smoking Waters Coffee Co.

He emphasized that shopping in a small community takes some of the pressure off, as many buyers know where to go and when.

The allure of local retailers also stands out to Radium Chamber of Commerce manager Kent Kebe.

We have many unique shops in the entire valley and we need to let the local consumers know where the valley businesses are located and what they carry in their stores, said Mr. Kebe, while highlighting the popular sale of gift certificates at Radiums spas, pools, gift stores and coffee shop.

He added that Radiums local wine and spirit outlets as well as restaurants have many options that make great gift ideas.

We need to stress what our entire valley has to offer potential customers so they shop locally, he concluded.

Mr. Smith added there are even health benefits to shopping locally in the Columbia Valley in terms of managing the usual holiday stress.

One can also find shopping less stressful than in the cities where even parking at the mall can challenge even the most patient, said Mr. Smith. Shopping in the Columbia Valley can be and certainly is a pleasant, relaxing and fun thing to do.