If you could choose between a shopping experience that is sedentary, solitary and fills the pockets of strangers and one that is active, social, and benefits your community, which one would you choose?
The good news is you can choose, the bad news is that according to research data, in the last three years, more and more people are choosing online shopping, the sedentary, solitary and disconnected option. A conversation with Sue Marfino at Shoefly while I was purchasing boots, got me thinking about the local economy and what I want to support in my shopping practices.
Why do people shop online? Are they aware of targeting tactics that entice us to buy things even when we are not intentionally shopping? How often do we buy something that does not fit right or look good and then need to return it? That discounts the rationale for online shopping as convenient, in that you do not have to leave home. Since when I wonder, is that even a plus? If you are able to do so, consider that when you venture out to walk to shops, you get exercise, fresh air, social interaction and the chance to support your local community. If you appreciate vibrant commercial districts where small business owners can earn a living and residents can participate in the local economy, line up your actions accordingly. That’s how we actively sustain what we want!
What is the impact of online shopping on the small business owners? You might feel your actions do not matter, since you are only one guy making one little purchase. Multiply that by all the others doing the same thing and you will understand how it is possible that in 2016 to 2017, there were three times the average number of retail store closings. Shopping locally increases the amount of money that stays in our local economy to 67 cents for each dollar spent rather than 43 cents when we shop online. That is significant.
That money funds the salaries of small business owners, the people who decorate their windows, shovel their sidewalks, advise us on products to purchase, and generally create a vibrant atmosphere on the street. Those small business owners in this era of online shopping are not only losing income, they end up catering to the practices of shoppers who enter stores to shop and try on items, benefiting from the experience, then purchasing online. Take a minute to stand in the shoes of small business owners and reconsider that tactic. Who can compete in that market? Who wins and who loses? Think about it.
I’ve heard the loss of retail stores described as a “retail apocalypse”. That’s dramatic I know, but as we are all aware, dramatic things happen when we are not paying attention or don’t align our actions with our awareness. Small actions add up, everything is connected and community matters. We are choice makers; consider the web of connections when you choose where to shop.
Shopping Small for me, is a value-added experience. If you consider the movement element (no gym necessary), the social element (no cover charge to walk in the door), and the value to your local community, you may choose to shop on Small Business Saturday, the day after Black Friday, which is November 30th this year. Compare the experience with online shopping. Was it the same? Remember that Small Business Saturday is only one day of the year. In order to make a difference, you need to shop in the small businesses in your community regularly.
According to Elmwood Village Executive Director, Ashley Smith, “Buying from local merchants not only strengthens the local economy, but simultaneously builds community and culture. Our choices of when and where to shop can support our communities or send our resources elsewhere. If you value access to an active, historic, and vibrant small business district like the Elmwood Strip, the Elmwood Village Association and Elmwood Strip Merchant Group hope you will consider making your shopping choices reflect those values.
For more information about the importance of supporting local retail stores, visit indiebizadvocates.org.