To spend or not to spend

As the old adage goes, there is nothing like a bit of "retail therapy" to burst people out of a rut, or the blues, or anything else we seek to escape when shopping calls.

This weekend is as good as any to indulge with the Turkey Sale, Cornish Game Hen sales, sidewalk sales - you name it, it's on sale.

And it strikes me that Whistler needs a break for a few days from the pressing affairs of state.

Over the course of the last several years Thanksgiving has become one of the most important weekends for Whistler retailers, but there can be little doubt that the current economic climate is going to have an impact on shoppers.

And it's likely that many who used to drive up for the sales and enjoy all the good deals on accommodation will instead just spend the day - not overnight - thanks to our greatly improved highway.

That, too, is part of our new reality.

Shopping is an oft-ignored part of the Whistler visitor experience, I feel. Locals bemoan the fact that we don't have the choices needed for family living and we question if we have the right mix for the visitor.

Just think back to the long drawn-out debate on whether a London Drugs "box-store" should have been allowed to locate in the village. After much discussion the idea was shelved and we have instead a more modest Shoppers Drug Mart with a large portion of the store given over to luxury perfumes and make-up - aimed obviously at the tourist.

In recent stories about how Whistler might capitalize on the Chinese tourist the resort's offerings have also come under scrutiny.

Chinese tourists, we are told, are all about the "brands" such as Coach, Louis Vuitton, Guess and more. Without that shopping experience in multiple, big venues they just aren't going to want to stay and spend their money here.

The problem is that type of experience really doesn't jibe with the authentic Whistler brand. We are all about the mountains, clean air, recreation.

But aren't we also about indulgence? Just look at the array of luxury hotels we boast, from the Fairmont Chateau Whistler to the Four Seasons brand - these are top-of-the-line experiences.

Perhaps it is about size - if the Chanel store is small it fits, but if the square footage is expansive then it is not acceptable. But I think it is much more than that. We have always wanted retail outlets that personify the town - kind of funky, unique - we've wanted business owners lending their stores as part of the personality of the town.

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