And the reality is that Fort McMurray can be a challenge for someone like me. We do have retail options, but they are, to put it kindly, limited. I do my best to "shop local" and support local businesses, but on occasion to get what I want I must resort to shopping when I travel - and I do engage in a lot of online shopping.
Things are indeed looking up in this regard. I have heard about some new retail options coming to the community, particularly into the space left when Zellers vacated the Peter Pond Mall (although my hopes for a Target were dashed early on when they made it clear they did not intend to open here - and really I think it's a foolish move on their part). The market for retail is here - because frankly this is where the money is.
Fort McMurray boasts a higher average disposable income than any other community in the country. We have the luxury of having the money - but we also don't have that many places to spend it and we find ourselves a bit thwarted when we want to go out and buy sparkly new shoes (ok, so maybe that part is just me).
I think on occasion new businesses here, places like retailers and restaurants, are often astonished at how quickly they begin to see a profit. All anyone has to do is look at new local bars and eateries like Original Joe's and Wood Buffalo Brewing Co, places where the parking lot is always jammed and finding a free table can be a challenge. I suspect those businesses are already feeling the "Fort McMurray effect", a population with cash to spend and a taste for new places to pour it into.
We still have a dearth of certain types of goods, though. We struggle by with one men's clothing store when our population is definitely weighted towards that gender. We have few options for women's clothing, too, and we have woefully few shoe stores. We have one children's clothing store, and one department store that carries clothing as well as other goods. We fare a little better in terms of places like Rona and Home Hardware and Canadian Tire, but not all of us are home renovators or into fixing our cars, either. If you are into crafts this is a tough, tough town to buy supplies as our one dedicated craft store closed years ago. We have a variety of grocery stores, but only three on the side of the city where most of the population resides. We are hampered by our lack of options, which can make the concept of shopping local a tough one to support - because I can only shop local if they supply what I want. If what I want does not exist here then I will go outside our city limits, reluctantly, but out of necessity and desire.
I realize it isn't all about "the goods", and it shouldn't be - but the ability to spend our money on the luxuries that make life pleasant is one that cannot be ignored. And at times even the necessities are tough to find here, and we end up looking further afield for those, too.
I think this is an issue that will begin to resolve itself. We are seeing new developments coming online, and future land releases will enable some big-box retailers to start looking at setting up stores here. I think many of the corporations that were once hesitant to invest here in infrastructure for retail are beginning to see the dollar signs instead as they see our population - and our incomes - growing. Until that time, though, I will continue to shop online and when I travel, although I will also continue to support local businesses (both locally owned and local stores that are part of national chains). I am listing some of my favourite retailers below, the ones I frequent not only for their goods but for their customer service (which to me is another huge reason to shop local). I look forward to the day when this list is far longer because our retail options have grown, maybe even to the point where I can no longer list them all in one blog post. Until then, though, I will greet every new retail store and restaurant with a smile and excitement, because every single one just adds to the options we have here - and this girl is all about the options.
Where I Eat The Kind of Food
A Personal Trainer Would Lecture Me About
Wood Buffalo Brewing Co.
Boston Pizza (Timberlea)
Where I Maintain My Blood Caffeine Content
Starbucks on Franklin Avenue
Live Cafe in Nomad Inn
Starbucks, Safeway Downtown and Thickwood
Havana's in Peter Pond Mall
Where I Feed the Inner Fashion Addict
Helen Arong Fine Fashion
Where I Bow Down in Worship
(aka shoe stores)
(aka shoe stores)
Shear Stylz on Franklin
Where I Find Other Fun Stuff
The Final Touch
The Body Shop
The Body Shop