The holiday shopping season is in full swing so this is a good time to give a shout out to local brick-and-mortar businesses. The TV is full of holiday ads of happy little Amazon packages singing their way into your home or all the wondrous things you can get at the big box stores. However, take a step back for a moment and think about the real cost of shopping exclusively online. It ultimately harms your choices and your community.
Personally, I’m not a fan of Amazon. I love the ability to see an item first, try on clothes before buying, or browse a selection before I choose. None of that is possible with online shopping. Plus, Amazon has become a mega-clawed consumer monster, stomping out Mom and Pop stores and eating up even the big box places while slobbering out mass-produced, low quality goods from the cheapest vendors. If everyone shopped mostly or exclusively online, imagine what your city would look like in just a few short years. No big stores for great selections, no small, cool shops along Main Street, no gaming cafés to check out new games, no special jewelry stores for that unique wedding ring. All of that goes away, ground to death under the wheels of automation and cheap prices. Unfortunately this is a true picture even if you shop a lot at eBay or Etsy. Using them for that hard to find item or unique gift is okay, but the more we buy online, the more profit we take away from local folks.
The solution? People need to reorient their thinking if they want to keep a variety of choices in local shops. Sometimes it is not all about the cheapest products. Sometimes it is about supporting local businesses and the city’s tax base. Consumers can make friends with their local business owners. Folks should prefer helping others by supporting their favorite places. Plus, having the item in their hand when they go home rather than waiting weeks for it to arrive is wonderful. You know the quality and color are exactly what you wanted. True, many online items arrive within ten days, but others take six weeks or more as packages are shipped from some foreign location. Last year, our special Christmas ornament gifts for 2016 arrived in February 2017 because we didn’t see the fine print about the overseas Amazon vendor. Certainly those who want to Buy American, can’t easily do that on Amazon.
In addition, I love the personal touch that a storefront offers. Someone can answer my questions, help me solve issues, and/or suggest new things to buy. That experience is shiny golden to me. True, sometimes that sales help is a bored teenager staring at their cell phone or radiating bad attitude more than usefulness, but that occurs less often than working with the cheery salesperson who wants his or her store to succeed.
In terms of crafters and artisans, the choice in where to spend your money also about supporting art and the ability to get a special and maybe unique gift. Author fairs allow you to meet local writers. Craft and vendor fairs abound in every community at this time. These salespeople, often retirees or single income families, need the support more than the corporate conglomerates, and they usually offer fine quality toys, woodwork, jewelry, cloths, soaps, foodstuff, and more. They are proud of their work and eager to share it with you.
Even if you buy items on Etsy, you are supporting small businesses somewhere, just not in your own community. You are allowing another artist or crafter to keep going because they are thrilled that you liked their work as much as they liked making it.
So please buy locally to stop your hometown places from disappearing. When they are gone, your local school and property taxes are more likely to go up without that sales tax revenue. Instead, consider attending a craft festival or visit the shops along the center of town. Your spent bucks will go further and you’ll see the benefits as your community thrives. That’s so much better than a line of dark, boarded up storefronts and deserted streets.