Canadian retailers deserve our national support

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Canadian culture has long been treated by the government as something that requires the utmost protection. The legislation made to preserve Canadian culture is regrettably necessary in order to ensure Canadian-produced television, film and musical content is created, distributed and available to the Canadian population.

Canadians are not often given enough credit for appreciating their culture, but sharing the largest international border in the world with the United States certainly creates problems.

The Canadian government has attempted to regulate the entertainment industry; ensuring Canadian content gets a fair chance in a world dominated by Americans.

It is becoming nearly impossible however, to differentiate between American and Canadian culture as our massive border does very little to keep American influences out.

I can easily attest to the influences American culture possesses as it seeped constantly into Windsor, ON where I grew up. Living out my impressionable years by the Detroit River, I was constantly bombarded by American culture, while simultaneously being taught that anything Canadian-made must be of a lesser quality.

Originally I had hoped when I moved further inland to Waterloo, Canadian identity would be much more realized; regrettably, the power of American culture rang just as strong as I fear it does all across the country.

While I applaud the government for conscripting laws that protect our deteriorating culture, they have completely permitted American retailers to invade the Canadian retail landscape.

While it is important to protect our entertainment industry, it is also important to support Canadian designers and businesses that simply cannot compete with mega-stores like Wal-Mart.

Quebec-based store Le Chateau for example, has been struggling to keep its doors open and after their poor sales in 2011 their future is in serious jeopardy.

While shopping at Le Chateau is often more expensive than at stores like Forever 21, the majority of their clothes are made in Canada, a rare occurrence that should be supported.

Similarly, Tabi had to close all its locations while Jacob was recently forced to close a third of its stores.

These Canadian operated businesses are being replaced with popular American-based stores like Target who bought out Zellers and Nordstrom whose claimed space previously belonging to Sears.

With such an astounding amount of American retailers moving north, nobody wants to be left behind in a weakening American economy.

Whether Canadian citizens have pride in their country or not, the reality is that the Canadian economy is one of the strongest in the current economic climate; a perfect time to allow Canadian companies to flourish.

The problem is that no matter how great these stores may seem in the context of their own country, the structure, stock and price dramatically shift when they cross the border. Not only will Canadian shoppers be denied major labels that American stores carry, but the prices will not be nearly as reasonable.

J Crew for example, opened in Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre to a disappointed clientele upset by the nearly 50 per cent increase on its products compared to its pricing in the US. Despite our dollar being consistently at par or better, Canadians pay about 15 per cent more than Americans.

No matter how many American stores claim to give Canada a cheaper shopping experience like Marshalls, we will never achieve the bargain sales like our neighbours due to a simple matter of higher taxes and higher minimum wages.

Sure, American companies appear more affordable in the context of their own social climate, but with the majority of the provincial minimum wages being almost double their American counterparts, it’s no wonder our products cost twice as much.

Disturbing consumer psychology which makes blanket statements that all Canadian brands ‘suck’ is an ignorant attitude, clearly uneducated about basic economics and differences between nations.

It’s important to realize that popular Canadian brands do exist. Lululemon has taken America by storm, Aritzia has been opening stores across major American metropolitan areas and Holt Renfrew is a celebrity favourite during the Toronto International Film Festival.

Since our nation’s population is roughly the size of California, it’s commendable that we can even succeed amid such a major retail market.

If supporting our nation’s industries seem pathetic to those who criticize anything Canadian, by all means, explore the American social and political environment and you’ll quickly realize how good we’ve got it.

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