You may have noticed that we (The Bownesian) have been in the news lately. It’s been a bit overwhelming (in a good way!), and we thought we’d like to share with you how this happened, our perspective on what’s going on with us as a store, and so far, what the results of the increased publicity has been.
First of all a little of the history that has led us to this point: Craig and I bought the store back at the beginning of 2012. (Because we loved it!). At that time, we both quit our jobs, bought the store and moved to Bowness.
For the first three years, we sailed along nicely; each week, our sales climbed over the previous year … everything was heading in the right direction (yay!). Then (insert ominous music here) Calgary’s economy started to struggle and our sales lagged a bit. At the same time, our costs increased; most particularly our wages which rose each time minimum wage increased. It wasn’t all bad though, by the end of this last year, we had turned our sales around a bit … but still, despite the rise in sales, our costs meant that we weren’t profitable. In each of the unprofitable years, Craig and I borrowed additional money and dug into our savings to cover the losses.
It so happened that one of our customers checked in with Craig before Christmas this past year and asked how business was … Craig candidly told her basically what I’ve shared with you … that we’ve had losses for the last several years and that we couldn’t afford another year with a loss. Our customer, Patricia, was surprised by the revelation and wanted to do something about it, so she decided to write an article for the local newspaper The Bowest’ner. Patricia interviewed Craig and I to be sure she had her facts straight and her article was published in the January edition. We were completely behind Patricia in her efforts; our logic being “Wouldn’t it be sad if we couldn’t make a go of it, yet our customers weren’t even aware of that fact until it was too late to help.” With Patricia’s article; our customers were made aware that we could really use some extra business.
That’s how it started. The article quickly gained some traction when Ward Sutherland (and others) reposted it on Social Media and that’s when Global TV, CITY TV and Livewire contacted us for interviews. You’ll notice that only Craig appears on the interviews (I’m way to shy for that!).
We also wanted to take this opportunity to share that we’re still a financially viable business. We’re still paying our suppliers and our closure isn’t imminent. Also, although increased sales are a necessary part of our future, we’re working on other initiatives to turn the business profitable including:
- reducing the number of paper flyers that we’ll be delivering (BTW – here’s a link to sign up for our weekly eflyer http://web.tgp.ca/weeklyad/index.html … check out the top right hand corner)
- cutting costs where practical; including streamlining our schedule
- we’ve scrutinized charges from all our service providers to get to the lowest operating costs that we can
- casting a wider net; that is; working to attract customers not only from Bowness, but from the city as a whole
- we’re looking to get into on-line ordering (and delivering further afield)
One thing that Craig told Patricia … and it hopefully came across in the other interviews is that we don’t need a “huge” increase in sales to turn a profit (although we’re OK with that).
All of this brings us to today and to how this publicity has affected us. In the immediate aftermath we saw a positive impact … and we continue to receive support from customers cheering us on. More recently, we’ve seen the sales increase drop off, but that may be attributable to this dismal weather. We do want to be sure to take this opportunity to sincerely thank everyone who has shared their enthusiasm for the store with us and who have made it their mission to bring their business to the Bownesian.
All the best, Leann
P.S. Here’s a link to Global TV’s coverage of the story if you’re interested in checking it out https://globalnews.ca/news/6385387/independent-calgary-grocer-potential-closure/?fbclid=IwAR1_2btjj4zoTHNMRMY1Z3FJHiVZDccqS4aHZQlI6xyOWg5SvHYPFe4jBy8