John Reeves Ltd., a family run enterprise may have closed its post in the Town of Conche many years ago, but there is still a place for the General Store in many of our Rural communities. These businesses thrive to supply the local consumer with all their essential wares from dry goods, hardware, fresh produce to rubber boots. Without their presence, many goods would be more difficult to obtain.
My community like many others see the loss of the general store. There were five small businesses that aimed to fill that market, pre-1992 cod moratorium. Green Island Cove at that time only boasted a population of 209 people (according to Stats Canada, 1991 census) today we have only one General Store with a population of 164 people. It currently is all that the community can support.
Today the General Store faces many more challenges than just concern for the local competitor. Transportation networks have made local consumer’s more mobile. Currently consumer’s demand lower prices and greater variety which places pressure on the local small business. Additionally, the small business is faced with the added cost of transportation for shipping goods (fuel surcharges), credit card/debit fees, minimum wage of $10.00 per hour, increasing electricity rates and high-levels of taxation. Beyond these factors, the local General Store now competes with on-line retailers, sometimes in an unfair climate – as they do not have access to Broadband Internet. Investment in Tele-communications and Broadband Internet is required to enable communities to advance the current business community and serve the people.
I commend those who endeavor to operate a General Store in a rural setting. One of the reasons the General Store has been successful, is their ability to provide a high-level of customer service. They listen to their customers and bring items in upon their request. Another service offered is grocery delivery to local customers. This simple idea is a benefit of shopping local, as you would never get this from a Big Box Store. There are innovative ways to continue to sell in Rural Newfoundland & Labrador.