The Sad State of Lethbridge Small Business

It's been hard to drive around downtown Lethbridge for the past year or so. If you're not from around here, look at the map below. It will give you a good idea of where we’re at in relation to the US, and the rest of Canada. Just an hour North of the US/Canada border, it’s a beautiful city with a population around 85,000.
Map picture

So why has it been so hard? There are just too many closed and boarded up shops, especially in the heart of the downtown area. Sure, there are always businesses that come and go. You’ve got about a 50/50 chance of surviving your first 5 years of business, so some turnover is expected. That’s not what I’m talking about.

It just seems like a lot of established businesses are closing their doors too. In the past couple years, we’ve lost 2 fairly big grocery stores. Ironically, the first one was located close to my house, and closed within a couple months of us moving in. The other was a few blocks from my office, and closed down last year. Gone are the days of independent bookstores (unless they’re used books). I believe there is 1 independent music store left (CD’s, vinyl, etc. not instruments). The business I worked for closed down last year after being in business for over 50 years. In the past week, I’ve heard rumours surrounding 2 more stores potentially closing down, both in the food industry. One has been around for a while, the other is fairly new.

My feelings on this are not based on any statistics. I don’t know if things are any worse than they were 10 or 20 years ago. It just feels worse. Maybe it’s because I’m older now, and I look at the city in a different light. Maybe I’m a bit jaded because my paycheque was affected by one of these shutdowns. Who knows?

Don’t get me wrong. If you want to open a big box store, or a smaller well-known franchise restaurant, this is a great place to be. If you feel the need to open a liquor store on a street that already has 3, chances are good that you will still get plenty of business. It’s not that the city itself is dying….far from it. There just seems to be a problem in keeping a small business alive.

So, is the economy, or is it us? Are small businesses dying out at the same rate everywhere, or are we as a community just not supporting our own the way others do? This feels like a topic I need to do some more work and research on. In fact, I’m in the middle of developing another website, devoted to more local matters. This post will most likely end up there too. In the meantime, please let me know in the comments how you feel about this.

Are you from Lethbridge? Do you agree with my views on the state of small business here?

Is your town/city experiencing similar problems?

Let me know. I think this is something we need to start talking about.