Local retailers are banding together to create a new association that they hope will give them a stronger voice in Whistler.
The Whistler Merchant and Retailer Association — dubbed WARM — has been meeting with Tourism Whistler and the Whistler Chamber of Commerce and gathering members ahead of its information meeting on June 10. “There’s a restaurant association, and bar and nightclub association, a hotel association, retailers, merchants are a very large sector of Whistler and that’s not specifically represented,” said Nicole Shannon, co-owner of Keir Fine Jewellery and one of the founding members of WARM.
Their vision is to invite a range of Whistler business owners whose stores don’t fit into any of the other associations to join. That could include everything from traditional retail stores to yoga studios and some restaurants. “We’re going to cover everything from Rainbow through to Function (Junction) and Cheakamus Crossing,” Shannon said. “It’s not just your traditional retailers… They still battle all the same things with signage and lighting and all of that stuff.”
Other goals include increasing communication between members and the Resort Municipality of Whistler, sharing experience and better business practices as well as promotion. “There are also the challenges of being a small, independent retailer,” Shannon said. “Where do you go for resources, best practices and knowledge sharing? It’s a great way for people to connect and mentor each other or share ideas. What’s a baseline wage? If you’re a small guy how do you compete with the big guys? It’s a way to collectively pool our knowledge.”
Both Tourism Whistler and the chamber have been supportive, she added. “They’re 100 per cent behind us and helping in any way they can… They’ve (both) been providing a meeting space, a representative comes to our meeting and communicates what’s going on. Obviously they both have a lot of knowledge,” she said.
Those groups have also served as a liaison between WARM and the Creekside Merchants Association, which Shannon said they hope to include in their meetings.
The group also knows there will be challenges. Shannon said business owners have attempted to start similar associations at least five times in the past. Still, she said, after buying her store with a partner in September 2012, she quickly realized how helpful an association’s resources could be. “We’re working very hard to get registered as a society and be a proper business in that sense so that it does have traction and does have legitimacy and people can look at it as a resource,” Shannon said.
The group is inviting business owners to its information session to learn more at The Mexican Corner on June 10 from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m.