• Downtown Duncan

Putting Your Safety First

Updated: Jul 15, 2020

Are you nervous about shopping, dining out, and entering into a ‘new’ normal given the stress of the ongoing pandemic?

If so, you’re not alone. During the coronavirus crisis, consumer confidence undoubtedly declined. A Post Disaster Needs Assessment survey conducted by the Cowichan Valley Regional District (C.V.R.D) found that 39 percent of surveyed businesses feel that the public’s fear of the pandemic has led customers to avoid visiting their storefronts. Additionally, 32 percent of those same businesses surveyed consider consumer confidence the greatest challenge they face in returning to ‘normal’ operations.

Yet now more than ever, small businesses need your patronage to survive. Consider that 77 percent of Cowichan surveyed by the C.V.R.D have seen a reduction in revenues, and a further 54 percent of surveyed businesses have been forced to reduce staff due to the crisis. Almost half - 41 percent - of surveyed Cowichan businesses fear that they do not have the tools to survive a similar, future economic shock. Consumer choices to buy local will help these businesses rebound, rehire staff, build resiliency, and maintain the unique shopping experiences that make places like Duncan, Ladysmith, Lake Cowichan, and other Cowichan towns the vibrant and special communities we know and love.

This is why it is important to know that we are not making a choice between public health and the economy when we buy local. Businesses are working around the clock to keep people healthy through these challenging times, often in inspiring and innovative ways. Guided by extensive regulations from both federal and provincial governments, business owners and managers have developed new systems to make shopping especially safe, from thorough cleaning protocols to measures encouraging the use of face masks.

“It has been an interesting experience and a huge learning curve,” says Hannah Ashton at the Old Town Bakery in Ladysmith. The Old Town Bakery installed a take-out window and placed social distancing markers along the sidewalk leading up to the window to minimize the number of customers inside. The bakery also set up online ordering to decrease line ups. Shops like Little Bird in downtown Duncan have also placed decals on the ground to mark where customers need to stand to ensure physical distancing requirements are met. Little Bird customized their decals in the shape of – you guessed it - little birds, and had them produced locally by the signage experts over at Mark’s Instant Sign Shop.

At Victory Barber & Brand North in Duncan, whole new routines have been put in place to ensure customer safety and satisfaction. Appointments are staggered so that increased cleaning can take place between each customer’s visit. Hand sanitizer is also available at the entrance, with the option to try sanitizer produced locally by Stillhead Distillery or the Victory brand itself.

Meanwhile, shops like the Sassy Lion Thrift Store and Fabrications are even doing temperature checks at the entrance to make sure that customers are not feverish. Businesses are being supported in these efforts by community leaders too. The Chemainus BIA created a community feel by providing each shop with a floor decal of their choice from the branded decals developed by the BIA.

The Chemainus BIA also supplied shops with standardized branded window signs to remind customers not to enter if sick. This effort by the Chemainus BIA is mirrored by businesses like the Chemainus Health Food Store, where employees carry product for customers to reduce touch points. Small businesses like the Health Food Store and the boutique Bound to be Different are “really going above and beyond” the public health regulations required, even offering private shopping appointments, according to Chemainus BIA Executive Director Krystal Adams. Over in Lake Cowichan, establishments like the Crown House Bed & Breakfast are similarly re-arranging their seating and cleaning protocols.

“I assume I am potentially an asymptomatic carrier and that everyone else could be as well,” Crown House Bed & Breakfast manager Cindy Debree explains. As such, Cindy wears a mask during all interactions with guests and when cleaning rooms. All servings of jam, honey, peanut butter and other condiments are single serve as well. These extra steps taken by businesses throughout the Cowichan Valley may cause some minor customer inconvenience. Thankfully, according to Volume One Bookstore manager

Dana Corbett, “Customers are willing to do what it takes and we are very grateful for that.” It is not only safe to buy local thanks to the outstanding efforts by our local business community. It is also an exciting time to find deals.

Cardino Shoes, for instance, is offering ten dollars off regularly-priced shoes when you wear a mask in the shop for the duration of your visit. This destination for special footwear is also rolling out summer sales on select stock, which you can purchase in store or online at www.shopcardinoshoes.com.

Similarly incentivizing customers, Outlooks For Men is currently offering 25 percent off all products as a summer sale. This includes some particularly stylish Dion face masks which are well-worth wearing around town… while shopping for shoes!

No matter how you look at it, buying local and supporting these impressive efforts by Cowichan merchants to protect customers and create a satisfying consumer experience are worthy of more than your recognition. They deserve your business.

Help keep Cowichan strong by buying local where and whenever possible!

Amanda Vance

Executive Director

Downtown Duncan BIA


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