‘Tis the season to shop local

The days to shop for Christmas presents are dwindling down and businesses in Penticton are hoping consumers choose to do it locally.

Sue Houghton carries an armload of Christmas gifts to their destination in downtown Penticton this weekend. Retailers are hoping area residents will shop locally this holiday season.

The days to shop for Christmas presents are dwindling down and businesses in Penticton are hoping consumers choose to do it locally.

“Sadly our biggest competition by far is Kelowna. About a third of our retail demand in Penticton leaves town and goes north and certainly we will never stop it,” said Gary Leaman, general manager at Cherry Lane Shopping Centre. “But, everything that comes to Penticton for instance when Wal-Mart opened, Canadian Tire opened, when Zellers opened, Cherry Lane’s sales all went up because people have less reason to leave town. When the downtown is full and vibrant we are happy with that because it is one more reason for people to stay in town.”

Leaman said already they have noticed an increase in people coming through the doors of Cherry Lane this Christmas season. Cherry Lane has four new tenants this year and a number of returning businesses that set up kiosks throughout the shopping centre.

“Retail leasing in a small market can be a challenge, because with the national tenants it is tough to get their attention in a smaller market. We have a couple of vacancies, but we have some traction on all of them and paper flowing on prospects. From the time you start talking to a tenant to the time they open their doors, it can be a year or more,” said Leaman. “Our CRU (commercial retail units) which is non-anchor sales are up a little over one percent year-to-date, which given all the doom and gloom in the marketplace and world economy, we are pretty happy with that.”

Part of keeping shoppers coming through the doors is providing a family atmosphere by having Santa appear daily until Christmas Eve to take photos with children and an abundance of holiday cheer with events such as schools coming in to perform Christmas songs.

“We want people to come in to not just shop. People are walking around looking for that perfect thing and that Christmas feeling, so it is kind of neat when you can go under one roof and find it,” said Phyllis Ritchie, marketing director at Cherry Lane Shopping Centre.

The Downtown Penticton Association also hosts a number of events throughout the year and especially during the Christmas season — starting off with the Santa Parade held last weekend. The community Christmas market is held Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. at the Penticton Lakeside Resort up until Dec. 18.  Shop, Stamp and Win has also returned to the downtown core. The buy local initiative will draw for two $500 Downtown Dollar packages on Dec. 22.

“Shopping local is really important whether you shop downtown or you shop elsewhere in Penticton, just shop local. I’m hoping people will continue doing that,” said Barb Haynes, executive director of the Downtown Penticton Association. “When the community supports downtown business they can then offer to give back as well. Daily these business owners are asked for donations and the businesses are very generous.”

Haynes said the Santa Parade brought out thousands of people to the downtown core last weekend and filled restaurants, cafés and stores. She hopes that trend continues with the milder weather and free Saturday parking recently implemented by the City of Penticton council.

While online shopping poses some threat to local business, Haynes said about 12 new stores have opened downtown in the last year that offer a variety of unique things.

“If you are looking for unique and different then downtown is the No.1 place to be,” said Haynes.

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