Saturday, December 12, 2020

Shopping local verses chain stores this season - why?


Small businesses are dying. If we don’t help out this Christmas season, only “big-box” stores and internet giants will be left. I don’t know about most folks, but I like shopping at independent stores. I like the “mom & pop” stores. It is fun to see things I can’t find in chain stores.

If we do not act, we will be left with Wal-Mart, Home Dept, Lowes, and other corporate chains, along with Amazon as our only choices. The options have already diminished. Mid-Town, downtown, and other “Main-Street” USA areas will become ghost towns of empty buildings and vacant strip malls.

I will give you an example of what I am speaking of. When I was growing up and wanted a book I was able to go the a dozen different places depending on what I wanted. For new books, I could shop at J.K. Gill, Walden, Barnes & Noble, or Borders. There were multiple independent sellers as well. For used books I had a choice of stores catering to vintage/used and there were the used/exchange stores. Finally, I could go to thrift stores. For children’s books, I could go to a toy store.

Fast forward to now. What is left?  A handful of used bookstores, a couple of struggling independents (mostly locals), and Barnes & Noble. Frankly, Barnes & Noble survives because they participate in combined online & local sales. What happened to the toy stores? Talk about a dinosaur.

Now, go to Wal-Mart or Target and you will find the same basic inventory. If you want a specific title, either go when the book is first released, pre-order it, or get it online. Stores carry a limited inventory now.

I understand about inventory. Merchandise on the shelves is money. It needs to move (sell), therefore only items deemed saleable are kept. Who decides what is popular? Who decides which boo is to be pushed? Afterall, the magazines that once reviewed new books are defunct.  Unless one follows a particular author, how do you pick a book? Our booth has a lot of money tied up in inventory. I know about theft because stuff has “walked away” in large purses or backpacks. I understand about damaged goods for the same reason after finding fragile pieces with broken parts put back on shelves. This is the reason I have alarmed cabinets after having locks jimmied.

Which brings me to my original point. Choices. When shopping, do you want to see what you buy before you purchase it or want to take the chance on waiting for It to be delivered. Is the piece of merchandise that arrives what you ordered? Did it arrive on time? Is it intact, or did it arrive damaged? What if it was the wrong item/ How much of a hassle is it to be returned? What if you never received the purchased piece but were still charged. Is there a place to get your money back?

When you shop local you can decide before buying the gift, if it is the right one You can inspect it for defects. If the item is new, it can be returned. Maybe the item has color options: you can see which one is best instead of relying on bad photos. You don’t have to wait for a package to ship. Best yet, you are helping to keep a neighbor, or possibly a family member, in business.

So, this Christmas season, maybe for one gift, go to a local shop instead of Wal-Mart, Target, or any other chain store. That one purchase might mean the difference between staying open and closing the doors forever for the business owner in a tough year.

Thank you and Merry Christmas.

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