The Hope Chamber of Commerce is going to initiate a shop local program aimed at keeping customer in the community. Many resident travel out of town to do their weekend shopping.

Keeping customers at home

It’s the same every weekend. Many residents of Hope get in their vehicles and head out of town to go shopping. It’s a consumer drain that most business owners would like to see plugged.

Rather than watch dollars head to other communities, Lonni Warren decided to take action.

Warren is the owner of Treehouse Health Foods and she put together a discount program for her customers. Anyone who make a purchase from her store, on Saturdays between noon and 2 p.m., gets a 20 per cent discount.

It’s the same every weekend. Many residents of Hope get in their vehicles and head out of town to go shopping. It’s a consumer drain that most business owners would like to see plugged.

Rather than watch dollars head to other communities, Lonni Warren decided to take action.

Warren is the owner of Treehouse Health Foods and she put together a discount program for her customers. Anyone who make a purchase from her store, on Saturdays between noon and 2 p.m., gets a 20 per cent discount.

“It gives people a reason to stay in town and shop on Saturday,” said Warren.

But that’s just one advantage. It also allows Warren to give her regular customers a deal, without hurting her regular week day business.

“It hasn’t affected our other days at all,” she said.

And she is hoping other downtown stores will jump on board with her idea.

“I’m trying to set a precedent.”

She started the program in January and her customers are telling her that other businesses should do the same thing.

“I want others to join in, if not this then something of their own. Anything to keep business in town.

She said the discount has increased her customer loyalty.

Others have taken notice.

It’s a good idea,” said Victor Smith, president of the Hope Chamber of Commerce. “That’s a slow time for businesses.”

Smith said the chamber is working on several initiatives to help local business owners.

“Sometime in the fall or winter we are going to host three or four seminars on how to rethink business strategies,” he said.

But if you think the problem is just Hope-related, Smith says think again.

“It’s everywhere. It’s a global thing. Some businesses are just struggling.”

Glen Ogren runs the Hope Brewing Co. and is a director of the chamber. He said the chamber should be ready to unveil a “shop local” campaign in July.

“I’d like to see a big kickoff campaign, to really spread the word,” said Ogren.

He’s seen a lot of potential customers take their business to Chilliwack and other cities. And while he doesn’t think its wrong to shop in other communities, for some items, “people should see what we have to offer here first.”

It’s been a tough year, weather-wise, and Ogren said the wet spring has not helped local companies.

“This is a place where people go to camp, we haven’t seen much of that so far this year.”

As for Lonni Warren’s initiative, Ogren said he’s all for it.

“Anything that gets people to buy locally will help.”

But not every business owner thinks telling people to shop local is a good idea.

Wes Bergmann, owner of the Blue Moose Coffeehouse said you can’t guilt people into it, you have to make them want to shop here.

“What we are (Hope) is a pit stop. And we need to be the best pit stop in the world,” said Bergmann.

He said businesses have to be ready to “wow” customers, when they come in. For Bergmann, service is the key.

“Not to be over critical, but this is just common business sense.”

He said there is a lack of consistency, adding some businesses don’t open on some Saturdays, or open later than the store hours state.

“We need visitors, people from Vancouver, saying the service in Hope is great.”

“I’m not going to shop here because of guilt, I’ll shop because of service,” he said.