Save money or shop local? Here is my case for community retailers.
Within the past year, I have read about three stories from the Atlantic Monthly concerning JC Penney’s decline. While all different in scope (the second, brief article postured how the tea kettle featured on a billboard in California bore an abstract resemblance to Hitler), they all mentioned JC Penney’s continued slow and gradual march towards retail ruins because the Internet is outsourcing our once beloved department store.
Case in point: the shuttering of book and video stores nationwide. Due to Internet powerhouses like Amazon and Netlfix, many consumers are simply shopping from home, or if you’re like me, from the comfort of their desk…at work…while under a deadline; something about clicking once to order season 6 of Degrassi: The Next Generation “for a friend” really alleviates vocational pressure. But I digress.
It’s not so much that I don’t believe in the evolution of technology, in particular, technology that makes it easier to be a capitalist, but I do long for the days when I could go into a video store with a group of friends, read the synopses on the back, admire the covers, and giggle at the people who briskly walk out of the ‘adults only’ section.
I feel that many consumers are at a crossroads where they so-badly want to support the small businesses in their community, but it almost defies all logic when you can get a similar item for much cheaper off the Internet. For me, I always place orders from my favorite bookstore in town (Books, Inc.) because they have a friendly staff, great events, photography books that are marked down by nearly 75%, and a free gift wrapping service to wrap said photography books; they even take the sale sticker off like professionals, completely removing the leftover sticker residue.
Over the years, as I try to meet technology and small businesses halfway, I have learned this: choose one small business that you truly enjoy and support them. For me, I have two: books and turkey sandwiches. For others it could be lawn furniture, Christmas ornaments, specialty cheeses, or even that local video store with an ‘adult only’ section.
While you support the local retailer of your choice, you can concurrently boycott the small business in town which you despise, and save your money by shopping at their larger, more cheaply priced competitor. After all, as a consumer living in the free world, we all have the power to decide where to shop, and I refuse to pay $10.00 for a pre-made turkey sandwich!