Boyd guest opinion: Does shopping local really matter?
How easy is it to browse all the different models, colors and sizes of that product you are about to buy on Amazon, add it to your cart, hit “Proceed to Checkout” and open your front door a couple of days later to find a box with your name on it? Everyone is doing it — estimates of retail sales in the 24 hours known as Black Friday this year came in at about $5 billion; the highest ever and up nearly 17 percent from a year ago.
The most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau once again confirms the dangerous trend of e-commerce growing at a rate three to four times faster than in-store purchases.
We generally don’t think about how hard our local retailers work and the risks they take when they invest land, labor and capital into a brick-and-mortar location that residents and visitors can patronize. These owners and managers face stiffening headwinds in competing with remote online retailers; higher carrying costs, more inventory constraints, limited customer parking and checkout lines to name a few. Oh and we haven’t even talked about the price advantage remote retailers exploit by often not having to collect and remit the 8.6 percent sales tax or Public Improvement Fees our local retailers live with every time the cash register rings.
Adding to all those worries in the past few months has been the colossal uncertainty that has come with Glenwood’s bridge being replaced. Most of our local retailers are down over the past three months from their 2016 sales volumes, at a time when they should be killing it because a strong macroeconomic environment has fueled more consumer spending than we’ve ever seen, in nearly every retail category. It’s not easy out there.
Supporting our local retailers, bars and restaurants is profoundly important to us as residents because they are the engine that drives our economy. The weakening of these entrepreneurs shifts our local supply curve downward which decreases economic activity, generates fewer visitors, increases prices and ultimately reduces our residents’ standard of living. Cities everywhere are losing much-needed sales tax revenue that funds police and fire departments, street maintenance, parks and recreation, infrastructure improvements and other public works. We’ve been fortunate in this area to enjoy the strength of an above-average economy for a long time. That prosperity is seriously threatened, however, without a retail community that is both strong and growing.
So during this holiday season before you hit the “Checkout” button, would you consider whether what’s in your cart is available here? The extra step you’ll take to buy locally contributes more than you may realize. The retailers I talk to every day stand by their product, provide better after-purchase service and fill an essential need that is easy to take for granted. These local stores have earned our loyalty with their commitment and resilience.
Go Glenwood Springs!
Steve Boyd is finance director for the city of Glenwood Springs.