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Love thy neighbour(hood store)

The slower start to the season can have trickle-down effects that are particularly impactful at this time of year.

The slower start to the season can have trickle-down effects that are particularly impactful at this time of year.

December is generally a rushed time of year when we are spending too much time thinking about consuming and not enough about connecting or sharing in a meaningful way—and that includes shopping in a thoughtful way.

We've just lived through commercial hell with Black Friday and Cyber Monday, so perhaps now it is time to reflect on both the giving and the consuming sides of life.

Enter stage right—GivingTuesday.

GivingTuesday is a global giving movement that has been driven by individuals, charities, businesses and communities across Canada and in countries around the world. More than 100 countries participated, and since 2013, more than 7,000 Canadian charities, businesses and community groups have used GivingTuesday to rally generosity and help make the world a better place in countless ways.

Last year, 6 million Canadians took part finding ways to do "good stuff," with more than $15 million donated online in 24 hours, in addition to countless other acts of generosity.

"These days it's easy to focus on the things that pull us apart," said Marina Glogovac, president and CEO of CanadaHelps, co-founders of the movement in a release. "But, GivingTuesday is one of those rare things that brings the entire world together." Across Canada, scores of civic movements have mobilized around this annual event, and here in Whistler at least 17 organizations, from AWARE to Playground Builders to the Whistler Food Bank to the Whistler Writers Festival are taking part. (Just Google the organization and GivingTuesday to find out more.)

It's not all about giving money—though hard currency is always useful to organizations. You can choose to give time to the organization of your choice or donate food to the Whistler Food Bank, for example.

Or you could simply take part in some random acts of kindness. Know a mom that could use a break from the kids? Or how about helping a neighbour with chores? Or volunteer? Sometimes we need to reach out. The 2018 Report by the Community Foundation of Whistler found that 34 per cent of respondents said they found it hard to make friends here, with 25 per cent saying they are just getting by financially.

In 2017, the report found that 24 per cent of those who used the food bank had been living in Whistler more than 10 years, with 66 per cent of all respondents over age 30. An increasing number of children are also accessing the food bank through their caregivers—from 19 per cent in 2014 to 28 per cent in 2017.

Whistler has always been focused on having its workforce live in the community and to this end has worked hard to have employee-restricted housing available—in fact, the most recent units were occupied just last month.

To keep these people hired, local shops and businesses rely not just on the tourists but also on us to buy local.

I admit it can be hard to find many things in Whistler in the holiday-shopping season, but perhaps we need to think outside the box about the gifts we choose (See "Merry gifting that keeps on giving" this week, page 50).

A just released report from the Canadian Federation of Business highlights the alarming trend of "showrooming," where shoppers visit local businesses to try out or learn about a product, but then buy it from a big-box store or online competitor. This is a major problem for independent merchants heading into the busy holiday season.

In fact, 60 per cent of independent retailers said they had experienced "showrooming," with a third of those saying it's having a significant impact on their business, according to the CFIB survey.

We know, as we start Buy Local Week, that every dollar spent locally keeps up to 63 cents in the community, creating up to 4.6 times the economic impact over any money spent at a non-local business. If every British Columbian shifted 10 per cent of their spending to local businesses, it would keep an additional $4.3 billion in our economy every year.

I'll let CFIB president Dan Kelly have the last word: "When customers go into independent stores to ask questions or try on merchandise and then take a picture or write down a model number so they can buy the item online, they might not be aware that they're not just taking away a sale—they're taking money away from their neighbourhoods.

"These are the shops that support local kids' hockey teams or donate to the community food bank every Christmas.

"They care about their customers and want to help and share their expertise, but their rent, their property taxes and their employees need to be paid. Ultimately, when consumers take up the time of local retailers but spend their money elsewhere, it's our communities that suffer."