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The Olympics Brought a Huge Burst of Economic Activity to Vancouver, But Many Businesses Failed to Profit

Future Shop's profits were up during the 2010 Winter Games, the company's representatives say.

While business died out for small local retailers during the 2010 Vancouver Games, some larger companies experienced record breaking income during the Olympics. 

Future Shop profited from the Vancouver Olympics, according to the company's media representative. While he would not give specific sales figures, Elliot Chung, Communications Manager for Future Shop, said the retailer experienced a large increase in traffic, specifically at the Robson Street location.

“The most popular items were digital cameras [and] digital camera accessories. We had a number of stores in the Lower Mainland extend their business hours to accommodate our world guests,” Chung said.

Future Shop created special name badges to identify employees who could speak multiple languages, Chung also said.

Main Street, however, failed to profit from the economic bounty promised by the Games. “There was nobody,” said Angie Heintz of Beensprouts, a children’s boutique on Main. “My business was so dead that I could actually count the number of people coming into the store. I had four tourists in two-and-a-half weeks.”

Beensprouts is located two blocks from the curling centre, and when signs were placed around the area, to direct people towards the centre, Heintz began to prepare for Olympic traffic.

“I thought ‘Wow! If they are going to be preparing like that, we better start preparing as well,’” Heintz said, “because they’re not going to put up signs if they don’t expect people to need signage.”

Beansprout did not receive the traffic that Heintz was expecting, and only saw small groups of people traveling on Main Street, to the burger joint across the street, and then back to curling centre or the SkyTrain. These groups ranged from 25 to 50 people at a time.

“I have been in business for 7 years, and my business has never seen a drop in sales, it is always consistent,” Heintz said, “but I saw a drop of 80 percent for four weeks.”

Declines in both revenue and store traffic were typical cases for most stores located outside the Robson and Granville area. “If you weren’t where the action was, you most likely would see a decline in business,” said Joe Weiler, a law professor specializing in sports entertainment and the Olympic Games at the University of British Columbia, “There is lots of evidence of that.”

“They [tourist and locals] were not buying things in Brentwood mall because there walking around downtown smiling and patting each other on the back,” he said.

While stores such as Breansprouts faced heavy decreases in sales, Weiler believes it’s only a matter of time until business returns to normal.

“People that would be buying pet food or new fish from their aquarium would probably hold off because they have left town—or they were part of the games,” Weiler said. “Their normal consumption patterns had changed, but over the longer period [of time] people will need these items.”

Overall spending in Vancouver surged, however, statistics released by Moneris, North America’s largest provider of Credit Card, Debit, and online payment services, indicate.

According to Moneris's press releases, spending in Vancouver and Whistler rose by 48 percent. Souvenir sales increased the most, by over 373 percent.

Local businesses on Granville Island and Main may not have benefited from the surge, but, money was made elsewhere by restaurants, by The Hudson Bay Company, and by other large retail chains. 

“Those who were directly evolved in the games had record income,” Weiler said. “There were a lot of hotels that were [completely] booked. They have been booked for years. There was a huge burst of economic activity.”

In Weiler’s opinion, the Olympics brought economic success to Vancouver. “In the long term, those shop keepers that lost a lot of business are going to get the new business,” said Weiler.

“We’ve learned how to put on the biggest event in the world and knowing that will be part of a long term tourist development strategy.”

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