Years ago a social scientist by the name of Malcolm
Gladwell, identified "The Tipping Point" philosophy to explain a
number of major trends which had profound effects on society. Gladwell
explained that the Tipping Point philosophy is based on the belief that
changes in behaviour or perception can reach a critical mass and then
suddenly create a whole new reality. The most important thing in trying to
analyse whether something is at the verge of a tipping point is whether it
(an event) causes people to reframe an issue.
At this time I would like to submit that the opening of
the Hart Department Store on March 30, 2005 in the Hanmer Valley Shopping
Centre, will in fact be identified as a "tipping point" in the
history of Valley East. To understand why I make this suggestion, you only
have to examine what has happened in this community as it has grown over
the past thirty years.
Since 1971, the total population of the Sudbury Region
has declined by about 10%. During that period of time, however, the
population of Valley East has increased by 25%. By comparison, the
population of the old City of Sudbury has dropped by 15%.
Also, since 1971, the number of households in the
entire Sudbury Region increased by 48%. Valley East, however, experienced
an increase of 106% in the number of households - more than double that of
the region. The old City of Sudbury grew by only 37%.
Today Valley East has the largest average household
size in the entire region with 2.9 people per household. This is directly
related to the fact that a large number of young families have chosen
Valley East as the ideal community in which to raise their children.
There are a number of social science explanations for
the growth of Valley East in terms of population and households while the
economic expansion in terms of retail centres seems to have been focussed
in the old City of Sudbury. In fact, the more big box retail expansion the
City of Sudbury experiences, the faster its population declines as people,
especially young people, move outside to the "satellite"
communities like Valley East to get away from the congestion.
The reasons are obvious. People want space. They are
tired of feeling crowded. They are tired of constantly being tied up in
traffic jams; bumping shoulder to shoulder with thousands of shoppers in
the large retail outlets; and getting the sense that they are merely a
number in the scheme of things.
People also want to be recognized! They want others to
accept them as a real person with real needs and feelings. You donít get
that in larger cities or in mega shopping centres.
Michael Hart, President and CEO of Hart Department
Stores saw this. Val Mazzuca, owner of the Hanmer Valley Shopping Centre
saw this. And after I read Malcolm Gladwellís book, I could see it plain
as day. The critical mass had been reached in Valley East. The community
is filled with people who are fed up with the hustle and bustle of big
cities and big stores where you lose your identity and become a number.
Todayís generation wants to experience the "good old days" of
their parents where store owners knew your name and would spend time
talking to you about just about everything. The "good old days"
where you felt like the store owner truly "cared about you as a
person", not just for your money.
But todayís generation also wants the benefits of the
"big stores". They want to have plenty of selection, low prices
and high quality. In other words, they want "good old days"
treatment with "modern day" mega-store pricing and selection.
This was the illusive dream.
Up until March 30, 2005, residents of Valley East had
been lukewarm when it came to supporting retail outlets in the community.
The predominant trend was to shop locally when all other options were
exhausted, or when time simply didnít permit anything else. The bulk of
shopping dollars still flowed to the big retail centres in the City of
Sudbury, much to the dismay of small business owners in Valley East.
It only took a single day in the hundred year history
of Valley East to change everything. On March 30, 2005, the people of
Valley East suddenly "reframed the issue of local retail
shopping". Suddenly, their behaviour has been changed to create a
whole new reality. That reality is that the retail choices in Valley East
are indeed excellent. The selection is tremendous; the quality is great;
and the prices are the best around. Furthermore, many residents are
shocked to discover that the excellent selection, quality and prices are
not limited to this one new store, but that all stores in Valley East do
Therefore, what Hart Department Store has done for
Valley East is force people to take a good, hard look at the entire retail
business community. What people have found is that Valley East is not only
the best place to raise a family, it is also the best place for them to do
the majority of their shopping. The slogan, "If you canít find it
in Valley East, you donít need it!" will soon become a rallying
cry. People will shop locally if they can get what they need. Valley East
has always offered people what they needed, but residents couldnít see
this. The opening of a major chain like Hart was all that was needed to
"draw the attention" of residents. Now that they have seen the
whole picture, the flow of money outside Valley East will be greatly
reduced. The support of local businesses will lead to more expansion in
the near future and Valley East will thrive.
The timing for introducing the Hart Department Store
couldnít have been better. The population in Valley East is growing. The
growth is being driven by young people who are searching for a better
quality of life and who want to feel as if they are valued as individuals
when they shop. The rapid, almost out of control growth of the big retail
centers in the central core of the "City" will actually drive
consumers away to outlying communities like Valley East when they discover
there is an alternative option.
The opening of the Hart Department Store is the
"tipping point". Valley East will no longer be perceived as a
community where you can live comfortably, but where you canít buy the
things you need to survive. The new reality is that Valley East has
everything you need, and, moreover, you feel like your business is valued.
Now that we have pushed past the "tipping
point" the economic expansion will explode. Within the next several
months, we will be hearing about a number of other major retail outlets
which will be setting up in Valley East. The future looks good.
The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell.
Read it if you can. It makes sense.
Until the next time...