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Hometown stores

Dec 4, 2013 - By Steven R. Peck

Everyone does some shopping online, but shopping at home is good citizenship

If you've ever driven through a community and been left with the impression that the town is run down or less than prosperous, there's probably one big reason: a lack of local shopping opportunities.

Put it the opposite way, whenever you have visited a town that seemed lively and prosperous, it's probably because there was a good local retail business community.

So it follows that if the reason a town appears to be in trouble is because there aren't many local stores, then the way to get a town in trouble is to quit buying at local stores.

At Christmas time, shopping and buying loom large in the minds of many people, but nowhere so large as in your local retail stores. In the ever-growing age of online shopping, local stores feel the damage with each "Cyber Monday" onslaught.

Everyone shops online these days -- even the local store owner. That's a societal given that isn't going to change. Variety, convenience and, in many cases, pricing make it attractive.

But local shopping has its attractions as well. And there's more: Supporting your local retail community has an element of civic duty to it as well.

This time of year, on or around the one day of the holiday season promoted as "Shop Small" or "Small Business Saturday," citizens are asked to consider the benefits of local shopping. There are several lists making the rounds on this topic. Here's one that makes good sense:

1. Local economic stimulus.

When you purchase at local business, more money is kept in the community. Purchasing local helps grow other businesses as well as the local tax base. Verified statistics show that more than twice as much money from a local retail purchase stays in the community compared to a big-box store.

2. Non-profits and charities receive greater support.

Local business owners donate more to local charities than non-local owners. It's a rock-solid fact. You won't see anyone from megastore.com buying half a beef at the county fair next summer. But most of the local businesses will be there.

3. Character, local identity and prosperity.

The unique character of your local community is defined in large part by the businesses that reside there, and that plays a big factor in your overall satisfaction with where you live and the value of your home and property.

4. Local services are supported.

Much of the money used on municipal services and infrastructure is generated by local sales taxes. When you need a police officer or a snow plow, or when you use a park or a swimming pool, those services and facilities probably count on local sales taxes to exist.

5. Most new jobs are provided by local businesses.

Combined, small businesses are the largest employers nationally. Local business jobs almost always are more stable as well.

6. Customer service is better.

Local businesses often hire people with more specific product expertise for better customer service. Most local business owners are the people you'll actually deal with when you go into the store, and their level of knowledge and commitment benefits you as a shopper and can't be matched online.

7. Local business owners invest in community.

Local businesses are owned by people who live in this community, are less likely to leave, and are more invested in the community's welfare and future. Did megastore.com sponsor your child's soccer team? A local business did -- and that local business counts on local support to thrive.

8. Prices might surprise you.

Local businesses often can acquire merchandise online more cheaply than you can because they can get dealer and vendor discounts that you can't. In many cases you can save just as much money while dealing with a local person and supporting the local economy. Give them a chance.

9. Sense of community.

It's almost never a bad idea to get out and about in the community that is your home. You'll see people, interact with them, and lessen the feelings of isolation that are inflated by all the hours we spend alone in front of a video screen -- and which can be particularly harmful this time of year.

10. You matter more.

A lot is said about exerting influence with your purchasing choices, or "voting with your wallet." It's a fact that businesses respond to their customers, but your values and desires are much more influential to your community business than the national chains and the online merchants to whom you are an e-mail address and a credit card number, not a human being.

Everyone who lives in a community ought to care about that community's well being. Spending local dollars at local businesses that own property, pay taxes, hire workers and contribute to the general well being need support -- and only we can give it to them.

Put simply, it's good citizenship.

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MAIL SUBSCRIBERS: Tuesday's edition of The Ranger was delivered to the Riverton post office at 3:28 p.m., in time to meet the postal deadline for next-day mail delivery.

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