During this fall's municipal election campaign two all candidates meetings were held by Collingwood's Business Improvement Association (BIA) pertaining to business the downtown core. Candidates were asked what our “vision” was for Collingwood’s downtown. While the answers were varied, the overall objective was how would we propose to stimulate economic growth in the downtown core? We’ve all heard the concerns over paid parking, the big box retailers opening on the west side of town and a host of other reasons as to why businesses on Hurontario Street are having a difficult time prospering in a changing economy. Ice sculptures and other initiatives aimed at drawing consumer traffic to Collingwood’s main street are fine but there’s an underlying problem that no one seems to want to address.
This morning, one of my real estate associates went downtown to make a purchase. He visited three separate stores (all in the same business) before finally getting what he wanted. He went to the first store their sign said open at 9:30am, but at 9:50am no one was there. On to store number two. By this time it’s nearing 10:00am. Store two is slated to open at 10:00am, the place is in total darkness with no sign of any life whatsoever that would indicate they are eminently about to open so rather than wait around on he went to store number three. Store three opens at 9:00am, half an hour to an hour before their competitors. By this time they’ve already been open for over an hour and guess what, they were very busy.
Three stores all identical relative to their businesses. Three different opening times two of which had failed to open as per their posted hours. Another business on Hurontario Street is closing offering up to 80% off, we all know which one. I peered in their blackened window this morning as they are closed on Monday! Closed on Monday? You are closing for good. You have inventory to liquidate. The town is full of holiday visitors on what is one of the busiest retail weeks of the year and you are closed?
Something has to change downtown and it’s not simply removing the parking meters. I hope that our new Council along with partners such as the BIA and Chamber of Commerce establishes an economic development plan that will not only address attracting new employment to Collingwood, it will change the attitudes of some area business owners in order they are not the victim(s) of their own shortcomings. Ice sculptures and bonfires etc. are all nice but ultimately people go downtown to shop. We need to make to easy for residents and visitors alike to patronize the downtown businesses and seemingly, nobody needs to be reminded more of that than the businesses themselves.