Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Three Cool Lessons From Shopping Locally

 Last April, I undertook a self-imposed moratorium on shopping in the city.  My intention was to concentrate on fulfilling my daily needs within my hometown area, and I want to share with you some of my biggest surprises and how I managed to survive while depriving myself of neither necessities nor frivolous material whims. I am not without shopping-sin (curse you, Old Gringo) but after a year of research, I feel qualified to preach on the joys of shopping at home.

In addition to planning ahead (fuelling up the night before a business trip, checking local grocery flyers for great deals on COFFEE!!!, etc.) I found that we have almost everything I needed in the small businesses at home – I just didn’t know it.  I covered off most of my Christmas shopping in Spiritwood, and I have not heard any complaints yet nor have I been re-gifted any of the items I gave…just wait until my birthday for final clearance on that claim, please.  When I committed to finding great gifts here, I discovered that it is wise to take time to look through all the retailers’ wares carefully – this helps to avoid the panicky last-minute choices that tend to show up at garage sales in spring.  My best finds:  Levi’s jeans for my toddler nieces - size 2 and 4, bath salts disguised as ice cream cones, bone china tea set, bar fridge (for my youngest, of course),  2011 Ford Edge (for me, I don’t spend that much on my friends) Christmas floral arrangements, baby blankets and piggy banks (a staple in a town where swine genetics is a major employer), shopping spree for new jeans (the best part of being from a small town is being able to tell the store owners “My daughter is coming in next week to shop for jeans, so I will be in sometime after that to settle up”.  This can also be a curse when I am shopping for an undershirt and three staff at the clothing store ask if I am shopping for my Grandma because my aunt was just there yesterday and bought her some undershirts…).  So yes, Christmas shopping, birthdays, baby births, Mother’s Day and Rider Season Opener Day can all be accommodated by small-town shopping.  That is because 30% of the retailers offer a wide range of Rider gear and/or green cupcake soap.

 Something I knew before this project began but which became even more abundantly obvious is that customer service in small towns is nothing short of stellar.  Whether I was looking blankly at a shelf that was lacking tanning lotion or an array of ink cartridges that did not include my specific number, or whether I was sitting in the crowd at the Stockyards – employees and owners wanted to know if there was something they could help me find.  Without exception, local business offered to order in exactly what I wanted when they didn’t normally stock it.  Oh, there is one exception -  the stockyards, who cannot not seem to find a bovine that doesn’t scare me (they’re still looking though.)  For the last three years I have been yearning for a thumb ring.  I have tried on rings in expensive jewelry stores, mid-range jewelry stores and even American jewelry stores.  You city people may laugh at what you are about to read – and that’s okay because it made me chuckle, yes it even brought a head-shake – I found the COOLEST thumb ring in the feed store.  It is a Montana Silversmith black and silver ring and like tattoos, I should have been born with it.  Insider tip:  if you don’t find something in a small town, look in the least obvious place – if you still don’t see it, ask someone.  It’s there somewhere, they just don’t know what it is called.

 You get what you pay for.  I proved this over the past year when I needed to make two major purchases of the same product.  One was purchased at a sale price in the local furniture store and one was purchased for much less in the city during a Boxing Day sale.  The one from the city is larger and was less expensive, but the one I bought locally is the one I use more (especially to watch curling, which is a religion in SK and therefore mandatory on Sundays).  Whether it is brand name clothing at the fashion store in town or furniture or saddles or cowboy boots, the items that are popular in our small town are popular for a reason:  we don’t have to buy them again soon.  This may seem counter-productive to a big-box mentality, but if you buy a $10 shirt and it shrinks, are you going back to the same store for another $10 shirt? 

There were more lessons learned, but my favorite aspect of the experiment was that I had more fun than I have ever had shopping in the city (I know, I am a hayseed and I like it that way) but people still think I shopped in the city!  My style has not suffered, nor has my grocery bill.  In fact, my hair is looking better than ever thanks to our full-service gas stations – meaning I don’t have to wear a toque when it is cold and windy and I am trying to look presentable at a public meeting or social event (okay, I don’t go to social events…unless you count door-knocking during election campaigns). 

Please visit the Spiritwood and District Chamber of Commerce facebook group if you need more ideas from my ‘Twelve Days of Christmas Shopping’ where you will find photos of local items and names of businesses that provide them.  I don’t mind if you join the group, but then you will receive updates every time I find myself having fun (shopping) locally!  You are also invited to leave a comment here – please do.


  1. My Dad's livelihood relied on the folks who shopped locally, so good on you for not only promoting it, but practicing it.

  2. Thanks, TR! I still have a beautiful decorative ashtray that my brother bought my on my 16th birthday...from your Dad's store!