Growing support for shopping locally has been good for N.W.T. artists and stores

Growing support for shopping locally has been good for N.W.T. artists and stores

Some artists and craftspeople in the NWT are noticing a surge in support for local shopping – and some are working hard to meet the growing demand for their products.

Communities across the area highlight local businesses through events like Small Business Week in Fort Smith, NWT and the #shopNWT campaign launched by the NWT Chamber of Commerce in 2020.

Also since 2020, Fort Smith’s Northern Life Museum & Cultural Center has hosted a pop-up shop in the weeks leading up to Christmas. According to museum director Shandee Hunter, the event is always a huge success.

“They were great,” Hunter said. “It’s really a trend now … everyone’s starting to realize that we’re doing this over the Christmas break and people are really looking forward to it.”

Beadwork can be seen on a table
Shanna Schaefer’s beadwork (Lil Miss Metis) is on display at the Northern Life Museum & Cultural Center in Fort Smith, NWT. Every year in the weeks leading up to Christmas, the center hosts a pop-up shop for local artists. (Northern Life Museum & Cultural Center/ Facebook)

Hunter said she thinks the growing support is coming from people who are beginning to appreciate the work of local artists and the variety of art they offer. She said people recognize that there is a lot of talent in the community and want to support it.

The pop-up shop will run for four weeks and feature five new artists each week. Hunter said the artists are grateful for the opportunity to sell their work, especially since the museum only charges a small mark-up on the products.

She said it also gives artists another opportunity to exhibit and sell their work on top of what they are already doing.

“It provided artists with an opportunity to display their items longer, we help promote it on our social media and through word of mouth,” Hunter said.

Hunter said the pop-up shop has been very busy and customers typically buy at least one item, but usually more.

“More and more people want to be social”

Local artisans are very grateful for the support. Kerri Norrie Nolting has a home business in Yellowknife. She sells handmade home decor and also offers workshops for people to create their own home decor.

A dog lies in a bed made from an old wine barrel
A dog bed by The Farmhouse and Kerri’s Creations. Kerri Norrie Nolting has seen a noticeable increase in local support for her business. (Kerri Norrie Nolting/Facebook)

She said she has always felt support from the community but has recently seen a big surge in local support, particularly for her workshops.

“More people want to get out, a lot more people want to be social,” said Norrie Nolting. “That’s where I saw the rise.”

She also said she has seen a large increase in local businesses buying employee gifts locally, particularly during the holidays for employees’ Christmas parties.

Norrie Nolting said she very much welcomes the trend towards shopping locally.

“Thank you, huge. I couldn’t be alive without the support of the community,” she said.

She credits the city for encouraging local shopping, but said small businesses give a lot back to the community.

Gail Ann Raddi, an artist in Inuvik, NWT, said she also saw an increase in community support. She sells handmade gloves, fur hats and other handmade goods.

A beaver hat seen from the front and side
A beaver hat by Gail Ann Raddi. (Submitted by Gail Ann Raddi)

She believes the rising shipping costs have encouraged shoppers to buy gifts locally. She also says that social media plays a big role.

“A lot of us say ‘support local, shop local,'” Raddi said. “Facebook is the greatest helper.”

She also said it pushed her to get creative. With growing support for local artists, she has seen more and more people start selling their work.

Raddi said she pays attention to what people want and tries to offer customers a wide range of options.

“You have to think outside the box to get them buying your stuff,” she said.

Raddi said demand for her work is currently high and it is difficult to keep up with orders. She laughed nervously as she said she was sewing eight fur hats to be finished by midnight on Christmas Eve.

“I’ll just cut them out and start with them now – but I’ll finish them,” she said firmly.

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