Friday, August 16, 2013


Flood zone businesses reporting brisk August traffic
Owners relieved by customers’ return
By Amanda Stephenson

Calgary Herald August 14, 2013

CALGARY - In the immediate aftermath of the June flood, Vine Arts was not a busy place.

The Victoria Park wine and spirits store had no water damage, but its regular customers — residents of the many highrise condos and apartments in the neighbourhood — had been evacuated. They weren’t out shopping, and people from other parts of the city weren’t venturing into the flood zone either.

“It was definitely slower. People weren’t sure if we were open or if the street was open,” said Vine Arts owner Jesse Willis.

Fast forward less than two months, and it’s a different story. The shop’s customers have returned, and then some.

“Our sales are really strong, even higher than expected or projected,” Willis said.

Vine Arts’ experience is not unique. Shopping and dining districts around the city — from Inglewood to Kensington to Chinatown — are reporting a strong August so far.

“The general consensus is things are as good, or even a little better, than can be expected. August is usually a slow time for everybody, but it seems like there’s just a little bit more activity around than what people normally experience,” said David Low, executive director of the Victoria Park Business Revitalization Zone.

The extra traffic comes as both a surprise and a relief. Calgary Economic Development estimates 4,000 businesses were affected in some way by the June flooding. Even businesses that experienced no water damage suffered due to prolonged power outages or a simple lack of customers.

“Many of our small businesses lost $10,000, $20,000, even $30,000 in revenue,” said Mary Moran, vice-president of marketing and communication for Calgary Economic Development. “Even though a lot of them were open, they were seeing traffic returning at a very slow rate ... Even in early July, we had some people who were reporting up to a 45 per cent decrease (in sales) year over year.”

Moran said there are likely several reasons traffic might be up in August — including the fact that some flood-affected Calgarians likely cancelled their summer vacations and stayed closer to home this year. Weary of cleaning out basements, they’re finally taking the time to go out to eat and socialize again.

However, Moran said she also hopes businesses are also benefiting from the Rediscover Our City campaign, a massive advertising blitz launched by Calgary Economic Development in late July to drive visitor traffic to flood-affected neighbourhoods.

The campaign — which will soon start promoting communities outside of Calgary like Bragg Creek and High River — aims to clear up misperceptions about the state of certain areas. On social media, the campaign goes by the hashtag #yycisopen.

“We needed to encourage people — give them the confidence that there is enough open for them to have an enjoyable time,” Moran said.

Low said he thinks a lot of Calgarians are being driven by a sense of community to support local businesses that have been through a tough time.

“I think the flood has kicked the idea of supporting local into people’s consciousness just a little bit higher,” he said.

Photo By: Carl Delzer

No comments: