DENNIS SEID: Shopping local more important than ever

By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal

It’s a battle cry heard in every city, town and village across the country: “Shop local.” But what exactly does that mean?
To some, it’s spending your money in your hometown, no matter what the business. Others think shopping local means buying goods only from locally owned businesses, not franchises.
Jim Troxler, who’s closing The Village Green after 32 years, has felt the impact of shoppers not shopping locally, however one defines it.
A couple of weeks ago, he said he was going out of business, the victim of declining sales brought on not only by Sept.11 and the Great Recession, but also changing consumer habits.
Sure, Walmart and other big-box discounters have hurt independent businesses all along Main Street America, including Troxler’s.
But doing more damage these days is the Internet.
Amazon.com, for one, makes it easy for people to shop for whatever they want at the price they want.
And when online shopping often means free shipping and with no taxes to worry about, who can blame people for going online?
But for Troxler and other businesses like him, it cuts deeply into revenue. And when the books start turning red instead of black, staying in business is no longer sustainable.
“That money isn’t staying in the community, it’s going out-of-state,” he said. “It doesn’t do anybody here any good.”
He’s right.
But the reality is, in today’s uncertain economy, and with everyone still keeping an eye on spending, the bottom line is the bottom line. Getting the lowest price has become the driving force behind purchasing decisions these days.
The old-school thinking that superior customer service would overcome any pricing disadvantages no longer holds true. It’s become the exception rather than the rule.
And even the chain stores are affected by online shoppers.
Best Buy is a good example. The electronics giant is suffering because people will price items in the company’s brick-and-mortar stores and get them cheaper online. A retail behemoth dominating its category just a few years ago, Best Buy is now the subject of takeover speculation.
The retail landscape has changed drastically.
Online retailers – not to be confused with businesses who maintain a physical presence and online presence – don’t have the overhead to worry about. They often have great tax advantages, too. So of course they can get you a better price.
We’ve seen the studies and the figures showing that some 60 cents of every dollar stays in the community when people shop local. Chain and big box stores are roughly half that. Strictly online retailers? Zero.
OK, so you might save money and spend it somewhere locally. Or you might spend it online again.
We pay a lot of lip service to shopping locally, but do we really practice what we preach?
Troxler is right when he said the fewer independent retailers there are, the fewer choices we have, when every store has the same thing.
And what a true American tragedy that would be.
Dennis Seid is the business editor at the Daily Journal. Reach him at dennis.seid@journalinc.com or (662) 678-1578.