In 2018, Mason and Daly General Merchants in Barkerville was approved for $12,375 through the Competitiveness Consulting Wildfire Recovery Rebate program to help them develop an e-commerce platform.
The need to vary and expand revenue opportunities was fully realized during the catastrophic 2017 wildfire season.
“The impact of the 2017 wildfire season on our business was truly devastating,” said William Rummel, partner at Mason and Daly. “It did, however, force us to look for new ways to survive such natural disasters. While no fires were actively threatening Barkerville, the fires did shut down Highway 97 from July to late August. Since Highway 97 is the main route into Barkerville, and July and August make up about 60 per cent of our revenues for the year, the closure had a significant impact on our bottom line.”
Having the ability to sell their products online diversifies their business and allows them to continue earning revenue, even during unexpected weather events and the months when Barkerville storefronts are closed for the season.
“The ability to open a webstore that is not quite so dependent on physical traffic has started to improve our ability to weather the impacts of the fire and smoke season,” explained Rummel.
“It also expands our season into the winter months, which combined with Barkerville’s expanded winter activities, has made our future look much brighter.”
Developing an online shopping platform has increased Mason and Daly’s business exposure, opened a new way to earn revenue and created an improved inventory system. The updated inventory system has resulted in more efficient ordering practices, leading to shelves and webpages filled with the products that customers are looking for.
“The first few months of the webstore’s operation have proven to be quite a learning experience,” said Rummel. “The inevitable pitfalls of a new endeavour made themselves quite obvious from the get-go, but we are smoothing the way forward and the operation is progressing well. Still to come are improvements in our social media presence and expanding the range of products showcased in the webstore.”
In July and August 2017, Barkerville reported a 54-per-cent decline in visits compared to the previous year.
Low visitation resulted in net revenue decreasing by 50 per cent.
With the implementation of e-commerce opportunities, Mason and Daly are forecasting a 20-per-cent increase in revenues over four years.
Mason and Daly’s e-commerce site provides shoppers with the opportunity to browse goods from four other Barkerville businesses: Eldorado Goldpanning and Gifts, C. Strouss and Company, A. McPherson Watchmaker and Jeweler and McMahon’s Confectionary.
In response to the impact the 2017 wildfires had on businesses in central B.C., Northern Development offers a rebate program to help businesses offset the costs of their recovery efforts by supporting third-party consulting.
This article first appeared as a success story on Northern Development Initiative Trust’s website and was recently included in Northern Development’s February 2020 “Building A Stronger North” newsletter.