03 Nov
Loyalty is a Two-Way Street


I believe that small-town values create solid relationships for life and business. In the small towns where I lived, companies knew their customers and gave back to their community. Shopping and eating out felt a bit like attending a family reunion. As children, we had our favourite kid-friendly merchants, and every merchant in town knew our parents. Although we felt like there were too many people keeping tabs on us, we also felt valued. 

Relationships matter as much in 2021 as they ever did. Every healthy relationship, reinforced by loyalty, grows stronger over time. 

A business relationship is a sacred thing to many of us. I remember being welcomed by name in each department of the T. Eaton Company. The hosiery manager knew my preferences and could guide me to try something new, and I trusted her. She valued me as a customer. Similarly, the cosmetics manager regularly asked if I was still happy with my skincare routine. She often told me about new options, hoping I would visit her when I was ready to try a new product.  

As my husband often tells young retailers, staying ahead of online shopping is about building relationships. Each time a businessperson asks about your kids or your latest project, you feel more connected. Building a close relationship online is difficult, although not impossible. Granted, some of my favourite businesses have had to rely on online selling over the past year and a half, and I retained my relationships with those retail stores. 

Like online shopping, catalogues provide essential services to their customers in remote areas. Decades ago, many small-town merchants feared that catalogue shopping might replace the need for small local shops. As it turns out, there was enough business for everyone. Both T. Eaton Company and Sears had offices in small towns to support catalogue shoppers by taking their orders, receiving their packages, and helping with returns. These local clerks were already familiar to shoppers, and they made the catalogue shopping experience easy. These days, more and more retail stores allow returns in-store from their online departments. 

Catalogue storyboard; WDM in North Battleford

Talbots is a retail store that has been in business for over 75 years. Despite their strong online presence, I have a relationship with the Talbots shop in the Calgary South Centre Mall. Talbots still offers styles designed for shorter people. This past summer, I was delighted to discover that most of the staff were still there. During this challenging time in retail, this Talbots store has strengthened my loyalty. They have mailed me handwritten notes encouraging me to call anytime and thanking me for past support. They phone me if they receive stock that I might be interested in purchasing. Over the past 18 months, they have taken me on shop tours via FaceTime. They know me so well that we can discuss clothing and the likelihood of me loving or disliking a specific size, cut, or colour. They make me feel valued. 

For me, shopping local is more and more about relying on Saskatoon’s artisans and small retail shops to provide me with retail therapy. I want to return to places where I feel valued. It is rewarding to deal with people face to face or even eye to eye over a mask. It is even better to hear words like, “Will you be having your usual?” or “Look what we found for you!” 

I long for the comment cards that used to be on the counter of every retail store because I could fill one out while I was still warm with enthusiasm over what I had just experienced. When I go online after returning home, I often can't capture the moment with the passion I felt in the store. 

Sometimes I feel like I am being pushed away from a store or a bank and encouraged to go online and require less personal service. I know that today’s customers may not want to take the time for in-person transactions, but I wonder if that is because they haven’t experienced the joys of a two-way relationship. I frequently return to stores and restaurants that happily meet my needs and that value my business. 

Wherever you live, please share your happy service stories with me in the comments. Even more importantly, please share your comments with stores at every level. Write to the mother company, tell the manager how happy you are with the service person, and spend your money where someone makes you feel fantastic—cheers to the two-way relationship street and as few off-ramps as possible.  

Comments (5)

  • Debbie McCulloch
    July 7, 2023 at 06:00 pm

    Loved this blog Maureen! Shopping local where we are a name and not just a transaction number is certainly an experience that is to be treasured. In small town Saskatchewan, shopping is not a chore or an errand to be crossed off a to-do list, but is a social outing! Chatting with the employees as well as other shoppers who truly are happy to see you is uplifting! The feeling of being valued as a person and an important part of a community is priceless. This cannot be replicated with an online purchase! Feeling down or lonely? Go downtown and spend time in your local shops. A smile is sure to follow!

  • Marion Murawsky
    November 8, 2021 at 07:13 pm

    Totally agree. We support local businesses as much as we can & appreciate it when people reciprocate

  • The Boy
    November 8, 2021 at 12:58 pm

    The Boy always goes to Jubilee Ford for his wheels. A customer since moving to Saskatoon in 1987, The Boy has numerous friends throughout the dealership. From shop foreman, to the mechanics, service advisors and even to the owner. Like the sit-com Cheers - everyone knows your name. They are my friends and every visit is enjoyable. They have more fun and so do I. A win-win situation!

  • Gayle Senger
    November 8, 2021 at 10:52 am

    I love reading your stories. They inspire me to stay focused on the important things in life. I also admire Gord and yourself to continue to share your joy of shopping and relationships. Thanks for sharing again!

  • Maureen Haddock
    November 8, 2021 at 06:33 am

    I was thrilled with the service I received at Eddie Bauer recently. First of all, they carry petite sizing, even if only online. I ordered coats and had to make returns. They accept returns in-store, efficiently and happily. The staff is knowledgeable and well trained. My loyalty has been renewed.

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