Whistler Chamber lunch promotes in-resort spending 

Luncheon scheduled for Dec. 3 at the Fairmont

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The out-of-town shopping trip is so common for Whistler locals that it's become something of a seasonal tradition.

On the flipside, of course, are the myriad benefits to the economy, business owners and residents of spending hard-earned dollars within the resort, and on Dec. 3 Whistler Chamber of Commerce (WCC) members will convene to discuss just how thinking locally can create a unique experience for customers that fosters their patronage.

Chamber CEO Val Litwin outlined how keeping dollars in the resort, when possible, not only helps local businesses, but creates a better environment for residents and visitors as well.

"When we keep the dollars in our community, we allow businesses to reinvest in themselves, they can expand, they can upgrade, they can create a more vibrant experience for locals and also our guests," he said. "Everyone wins if we can be a little more conscious about those spending decisions and prevent leakage."

A 2012 report by G.P. Rollo & Associates found that Whistler experiences major business-to-business spending outside of the resort, forecasting an annual leakage of $65 million from the community by 2015.

Litwin stressed that the dialogue should not be confined only to locally owned businesses either, as all resort businesses contribute "to the fabric of the local experience here."

Dan Ellis is the owner of village bookstore Armchair Books, and spoke to the value that independent stores add to the community.

"Throwing money into the local economy and supporting independent businesses is what keeps the character of a small town like this vibrant," he said. "Independent stores offer character to a community, versus throwing money at an online institution or a chain of some sort, which are kind of homogenized and don't offer anything unique in particular."

One way Ellis is attracting more online customers is through a partnership with BookManager, a software and data company that works with over 400 bookstores.

"We've partnered with a software provider that is unique to bookstores in North American. They've helped us create a situation where we can showcase all our titles, and every book in print even if we don't have it in stock, with a description and the whole bit," he said. "We couldn't even dream of doing that before, now we can with this partnership and we can offer a discount to anyone who orders online."

Having "a robust online strategy" is key for resort businesses hoping to compete with an increasingly savvy customer base that is doing more shopping online than ever before, said Litwin.

"(Whistler businesses) are competing against a global market now because there are no borders when you shop online," he added.

Whistler communications consultant Randi Kruse shops locally whenever she can, and said there are always ways for residents to find good value in town.

"I don't think it's always true that it's more expensive in Whistler," she said. "I think people that have lived here a long time know where to go, they know the other business owners and can work out deals. Of course, is it going to be more expensive (in Whistler) than going to Walmart? Yeah, but you can't compare supporting your community's local economy with shopping there."

Kruse also underlined how shopping locally supports the vision for an environmentally sustainable community, and hopes to eventually set up a pop-up business in Whistler during a peak time in the resort.

The Talk About Local Chamber luncheon will be hosted at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler from 11 to 11:45 a.m.

The cost is $40 for WCC members and $45 for non-members.

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