It’s been a trying week for the retail community in New Glasgow – the final days of Zellers, followed by the sudden announcement that the Pictou County Co-Op grocery store would close.
Sad as it is, it would be a stretch to call the latter a startling surprise, since other communities in the Maritimes have lost their Co-Op stores in recent years. Add to that the report from Atlantic Co-Op about how seriously sales had declined; for example, despite a local membership of more than 8,000, only 272 members made purchases of more than $60 a week in the past year.
It represents a loss in many ways – a number of jobs, one less presence among the retail competition and also a player in the business that as much as possible supports food production in the region. That’s not to say other chains don’t buy produce from the region, they do, but Atlantic Co-Op has long promoted its close relationship with farmers and other producers throughout the Maritimes.
It’s also the loss of what some people hold near and dear as a philosophy – a co-operative store, with the foundation of at least some degree of membership direction versus the more conventional corporate model. That makes it far more emotional for those who stuck with it through thick and thin.
But in Pictou County, as loyal as some customers might have been, they didn’t show up in the droves needed to give the store a strong standing.
Many will view this closure as a sign of newer trends. Consumers go in throngs to shopping centres and the larger stores that offer a wide range of goods amidst aisles and aisles of shopping. And there is certainly nothing wrong with that, in that the customer is always right. If that’s what draws them in, then that is exactly the right thing to offer.
But such changes give pause for thought. We, as local customers, living in a relatively small urban spread, take our stores for granted. But things don’t stay the same. If you don’t use them, expect to lose them.