It has come to the point that the downtown community needs to use us or lose us. This is an economic reality. Our downtown store has come to the point that it has failed and we are reaching out to the downtown community with a simple question – do you want us in your community?
As many of you know, Earth’s General Store is a local and independent business. We are not owned by people that live in Calgary, BC or controlled by a corporation in New York. We are Edmontonians. In 2016 we celebrated our 25th Anniversary of serving the citizens of Edmonton.
In 2014 we opened a store and café in a grocery food desert in Edmonton’s downtown core on 104th street. Everyone thought this was a good move and that it would be a success. When Sobeys on 104th and Jasper vacated their premises a few days after we opened we were worried that we would not be able to meet the demand that the Sobeys shoppers would place on us.
We were very much mistaken.
The downtown store and café have not met any of our financial needs and has been kept alive by the success of our Whyte avenue store and our customers there.
Every system requires a balance between the expenditures and the sustenance – the flow of ins and outs. If the expenditure is much greater than the sustenance then the system/entity dies. If the sustenance is in excess the entity/system can become – well ill. A healthy system is where these balances one another and it makes for a stable and robust system. If the expenditures become too great, then you need to take serious actions, an intervention. It is the same for a business and the time has come for us to take serious action.
Our costs for the store space are fixed and we are operating with the least number of staff possible to service our customers. We, therefore, need to focus on the income side of things.
We have an arrangement with the landlord that we have a six-month termination of lease window. If we decide that things are too dire then we can give a six-month notice and then limp to that date.
BUT I wish to give people an option. Too many times businesses close and people say – “I did not know they were in trouble” or “if I had known I …”. One moment they appear normal and the next the doors are shuttered. The people that lose out are the staff and the customers that used to use the business and by extension, the local community.
Most people also know I don’t do business like normal businesses. I could give my notice to the landlord and not tell anyone and it would be a surprise to everyone. I do not think that is fair or respectful to our staff, our customers, and the community. So we will do things differently. We are letting you know since it is, and always been, in your power to see a full-service grocery store in Edmonton’s downtown core.
Use Us or Lose Us
So, this is what we will do. We have set a financial target that we need to achieve at the end of each month for the next year since I figure it will take this long to get onto sound financial footing. These financial goals will be modest increases (10-20% increase over last year numbers) but still very reasonable numbers especially when compared to Whyte avenue.
So if the downtown store does not meet the target by the end of each month we will provide notice to our landlord that we will vacate the premises at the end of our six-month period. For example, if the target is not met at the end of January we would provide notice to our landlord that we would vacate the premises for the end of July 2017.
The increase we need to achieve for January is 8% more than last year. It will represent an increase of 400$ per day in sales. It is also a figure that we have exceeded three times over the past 12 months so we know it is easily doable.
Close to the end of January, I will let people know if we have met our target or not. We will also install a visual reminder/aid at the downtown store to show where we are on the goal. This graph will not be activated UNTIL we achieve the same amount of sales as last year and then we will be indicating what remains to achieve.
This period will be stressful for our staff since they will not know for a certainty that their job will be secure in six-months’ time. We had a meeting with the downtown staff to explain the situation. We try to have an open business where everyone hears what is happening and can have input. If we evoke the six-month termination option then it will be difficult to keep staff since rightly they will be looking for other employment options.
People say they want a safe, walkable, entertaining, and healthy neighbourhood to live in. A neighbourhood where people can walk to services like banking, post office, shopping, drug store, dry cleaners, liquor store, bars, sandwich shops, restaurants, groceries, etc. 104th street has nice wide sidewalks for people to meander along, low profile curbs to encourage jay-walking, trees, interesting and diverse businesses, lots of places to eat, slower than normal traffic, a park, a school, convenience store, and lots of people living in their condos/apartments. Sounds like an idyllic space to me.
Our rent downtown is twice what the Whyte avenue store costs and we do about 50% of the sales. This is not sustainable. Whyte makes a little more than needed to be sustainable and that has been poured into the shortage created by the downtown store but that is not been keeping pace with the deficit. I have been borrowing to keep the store going but that is not a good business plan.
If you are a Whyte Avenue store customer, please do not transfer your purchases to the downtown thinking that this will help. It will actually skew things a bit and provide poor data. We have already experienced this a bit in the past where Whyte avenue shoppers shifted some of their spending to the downtown store and we saw a drop at Whyte and a slight increase downtown.
Of course, spending a little bit more at Whyte would help to bridge the shortfall that has been created by the performance of the downtown store and café.
Since all of our money is in one bank account it is important for the health of our whole business that the sales at our Whyte avenue store do not falter. The Whyte avenue has always supported the downtown store and for that we are very indebted to our friends and customers in that area of the city. Our business would be quite healthy if we did not have the downtown store to support. As it is, it is not doing well because of the continuous financial drain caused by the downtown store.
We love being part of the downtown community but we are not presently getting the business to survive. Do you want us here or not? The decision whether we stay or not is yours. It has always been out of our hands.
Want to help?
We believe in old world marketing – word of mouth, personal referral, etc. Though these days, the “word” is usually written on a social media platform. So old world word-of-mouth using new technology :).
- Continue being an Earth’s General Store champion by supporting us and if possible take it up a notch. We have some very committed and supportive customers at our downtown store and I thank them for that support. They/you are special to me.
- Share on social media (Twitter EGSCafe, Facebook , Instagram)
- Tag us on Social Media
- Write reviews on Google, Google Plus, Yelp, Facebook, etc. Hopefully, they are positive.
- “Check-in” on Facebook to let your connections on Social Media know that you go to Earth’s General Store.
- Create some buzz about us.
- Talk about us to your friends and family. Why is it important to you to see a local independent grocery store survive in Edmonton’s downtown core?
Earth’s General Store downtown is not alone in this predicament. There are many local businesses that could use a little more of your patronage. Take some of your money out of the corporate stores and spend locally. Your community will be richer for it.
In exchange for your support, we will continue to operate our store and café and offer organic and healthier products at fair prices.
We have some fantastic customers at our downtown store and over the 30 months that we have been at the downtown location I have enjoyed our conversations. Thank you for that.
Please be gentle with our staff as we go through this stressful time as we reorganize and set off on a better financial path. They have and are doing a good job. The present situation was not caused by them. If you need to vent or are upset please talk with me (Michael) directly and I will try and address your concerns and comments to your satisfaction.
This was a very reluctant decision on my behalf since it is admitting that I have failed and I need help. It also causes stress for our staff.
We look forward to serving you at our downtown location for years but we can’t do this alone. At present, it is not working for us and if you want to see us continue to be a resource for the downtown community then use us or lose us.