Christmas in Merritt has been good from a sales perspective, even before the last week rush, according to at least one city councillor.
But think of how much better it could be with a little encouragement to spend in the Nicola Valley. And no, I don’t mean more pleas from local businesses and government. I mean some real incentive to stay in town to shop, like having competitive gas prices.
I have to agree with letter writer Victor Negrin that it’s a little hard to swallow Mayor Susan Roline’s comments that gas prices in town are “competitive.”
We have probably received more complaints over the year about Merritt gas prices than any other issue.
One of our website commenters, rjtmom, made a simple yet insightful comment in response to Negrin’s letter.
“You’re right, people will shop in Kamloops, because it's a deal to go up there and fill your gas tank. So, our local businesses are losing out, as are our local gas stations!”
Merrittonians have incentive to travel in any direction away from the city in hopes of finding cheaper black gold. Why not also do a little shopping on their trip and kill two birds with one stone?
Even when a recent gas war in Kamloops brought prices at the pump below a dollar per litre, the gas stations in Merritt continued to assume the role of Ebenezer Scrooge, the Grinch, or what have you and continued to sell theirs at just under $1.30 per litre.
Maybe Merrittonians will wake up on Christmas morning, after gasoline alley gets some strange visitations overnight, and gas prices will suddenly fall. As I write this, gas prices in the nearest cities are: $1.09 per litre in Kamloops, $1.15 in Hope, and $1.18 in Westbank. Meanwhile, the average price in Merritt is $1.28. It might not seem like a huge difference to gas companies, but even 10 cents makes a huge difference to your average consumer.
And I have yet to see a local gas company justify the higher prices.
If the gas companies don’t happen to find the Christmas spirit and stifle this growing controversy, perhaps it is time for local business groups and the Chamber of Commerce to start putting pressure on the gas stations to lower prices in order to encourage local shopping.
It will likely benefit the gas stations, too, as not only will they get out-of-towners filling up, but also locals will start gassing up in Merritt while they do their shopping.
So here’s to a very Merritt Christmas and hopefully a happy New Year that sees the gas companies make and stick to some “competitive” resolutions.