Can Shopping be a Community-building Experience?

Calgary one of five cities in Canada to join Yellow Pages campaign to promote shopping at small to medium sized local businesses

Tea the Naked Leaf is just one Annie’s many favourite independent, local shops in Kensington. Photo credit: Lana Selbee

Tea the Naked Leaf is just one Annie’s many favourite independent, local shops in Kensington. Photo credit: Lana Selbee

As the 2014 holiday season unfolds, many Canadian shoppers are darting out to box stores – or in, to their computers, as the case may be — determined to nail the best deals in the least amount of time while gulping back stomach-churning anxiety.

And then there are those making another choice — shopping that is as much if not more about the experience as it is about the deals and the efficiency. Shopping that could in fact be considered a kind of community-building experience.

Shopping that sees people strolling through their local outdoor shopping districts, pausing for a coffee or hot chocolate at one small locally-owned shop, popping in to peruse the unique products at another. Enjoying how the cold air brings a rosy colour to one’s cheeks, as well as the chance to chat with friends and family one meets along the way.

And while they’re doing all that, they’re supporting what Annie MacInnis calls the “lifeblood” of the city — businesses that add rich character and flavour to the city, businesses that are the local economy at work.

That’s the kind of shopping a Nov. 29 campaign is encouraging. Spearheaded by Yellow Pages, Shop the Hood is calling for Canadians to support small to medium sized businesses by shopping locally.

Calgary is one of five cities in Canada engaged in the Yellow Pages campaign. Eight of Calgary’s 10 Business Revitalization Zones (BRZ) are involved, encouraging local businesses to participate and hosting activities to inspire residents to visit the respective districts.

For example, the Kensington BRZ is offering free horse and wagon rides and hosting a Stampede breakfast the morning of Nov. 29.

“We’re really encouraging people to sink their money here locally not just this Saturday but this Christmas season,” says Annie, who is executive director with the Kensington BRZ.

Jonathan Kane launched Tea the Naked Leaf six years ago after determining he was ready for a life change from teaching dance. Tea the Naked Leaf is a fabulous example of an independent shop that’s energizing the local economy. Jonathan sources many of his products locally, including hand creams, chocolates, teapots and teacups made by a variety of local artisans. He also features artwork by a host of local artists.

Jonathan Kane is the owner of the independent shop, Tea the Naked Leaf, in Calgary’s Kensington district. Photo credit: Lana Selbee

Jonathan Kane is the owner of the independent shop, Tea the Naked Leaf, in Calgary’s Kensington district. Photo credit: Lana Selbee

“So far we have created over 180 different labels showcasing over 80 different artists. It is a very cool way to support the Calgary art scene,” Jonathan says.

He also describes Nov. 29 as an opportunity to have a community-enriching experience.

“This is a great time to meet shopkeepers, find out why they are passionate about what they do, and to see what separates them from mall shops,” he says.

“Plus, Saturday is also the kickoff to Christmas in Kensington, so we are hoping that people will come out to socialize and meet neighbours and bring some street life and community to the area.”

But don’t forget to actually spend some money while having all this fun.

As Jonathan says, “So often people come into the shop and say how much they love what is happening at The Naked Leaf, but leave empty handed.

“Small businesses can’t stay in business if people don’t spend money in them. There is no corporate office helping us out. Most small business owners have to do their own marketing, bookkeeping, websites, customer service, shop repairs, sales, cleaning, overtime.”

“If you love a shop that much, you need to shop there.”

Small businesses employ close to 50 per cent of Canada’s private sector workforce and drive close to 30 per cent of Canada’s GDP, according to a 2013 Industry Canada report.

To learn more about Shop the Hood, click here.

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