‘It’s the summer that never happened’

More Albertans may have stayed closer to home this summer but their presence didn’t mean they were in a shopping mood at businesses which depend on their trade, a longtime merchant says.

Nomads Surf Shop employee Mark Pritchard helps Graham Bromby of Edmonton and Randy MacMillan of Cold Lake with a purchase of sunglasses in Sylvan Lake over the long weekend.

SYLVAN LAKE – More Albertans may have stayed closer to home this summer but their presence didn’t mean they were in a shopping mood at businesses which depend on their trade, a longtime merchant says.

Steve Prtichard, who has managed the Big Moo Ice Cream Parlor and small adjoining shops specializing in beach-related merchandise, said Sunday “business has been terrible” this summer.

Tourism Red Deer reported Friday that the number of travellers who stopped in at its visitor information centre was running about seven per cent more than last year for the same period.

Pritchard, who has run the business for two decades, said the sluggish economy and spotty weather are the culprits.

He said he hasn’t noticed an increase in tourism at Alberta’s most popular tourist location outside the mountains.

“People have been a lot more careful in what they’re buying. They’ll mostly just buy one of something.”

Pritchard said in conversation with other small business owners around town business is down.

“Most feel it’s the summer that never happened,” he said.

He said not only was the weather wet at times but it was colder than normal.

He said in an effort to attract more business he’s spent more on advertising than in the past.

Although shopping has been slow golf courses and resorts have enjoyed a steady year.

Wayne Ganshirt, general manager of the golf course at the Gleniffer Lake Resort and Country Club, said tourism has improved this summer.

“As far as the resort goes it’s probably been one of the busiest seasons we’ve had,” said Ganshirt, who has been at the resort since 2001.

People staying closer to home because of the economy has helped increased business.

“More members of their families come to visit them here instead of traveling further afield.”

He said there’s been an increase in the number of people renting out the RV lots from their owners as well.

In fact, the golf course was so busy it set a record for users on Sunday, he laughed.

“Numbers have been up probably about 10 per cent over last year,” he added.

Meadowlands Golf Course and campground manager Scott Tompkins said the business has enjoyed a good year.

“The campground was full and golf course sales are up. It’s been a very business year for us,” he added.

“Lots of people have stayed closer to home so it’s been good that way,” said Tompkins.

Melody Vanderwasser from Edmonton was shopping Sunday at a Sylvan Lake business searching for a rubber dinghy but couldn’t find one for a “decent price.”

“You would think prices would fall this late in the season but I guess the merchants are hurting like everyone.

“We’ve been watching our spending closely and have stayed around Edmonton and Central Alberta for our little vacations this summer,” Vanderwasser said.

jwilson@bprda.wpengine.com

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