As more and more people turn to the web for shopping and as retailers and developers continue to roll out new features and applications to enhance the e-commerce experience even more, online shopping will only keep growing and claim hold of an increasingly larger slice of the retail pie.
Most people who count themselves as regular readers of this blog would consider that a good thing.
However, it’s easy to forget that not everyone has such positive thoughts and aspiration when it comes to internet shopping. As e-commerce has grown in popularity over the years, there is one clear segment of the population that has not flourished as a result—traditional, local brick and mortar retailers. In fact, their struggles have almost directly correlated to online shopping’s growth, giving birth to a whole movement that advocates “local shopping” as a way to boost local communities and small businesses.
This movement has earned its fair share of press in the past. And today’s item provides a great look at the issue at hand and how advocates for local shopping are working to compete with online shopping supporters on the other side at a time when consumers are still watching their spending.
The Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, representing businesses and in particular, retailers in the town of Manchester, CT is about to unveil a publicity campaign challenging local resides to take a closer look at their spending habits and reduce their online shopping purchases by five percent over the next twelve months.
Called the “You Can Get It Here” campaign, the plan is just the latest effort by a municipality to curb online spending in favor of having shoppers spend their money locally instead.
The Chamber’s president, Sue O’Connor, argues that if implemented and carried out, the shift could mean as much as $2 million to the Manchester economy, which is heavily reliant on retail sales. She also said that local businesses themselves need to make a more concerted effort to buy locally, where it is estimated that two-thirds of every dollar spent locally ends up staying in the area through local charities, non profits and of course, taxes.
Now, we’re not here to argue that brick and mortar retailers and/or small businesses should take a backseat to anyone. Any economist will tell you that small businesses are what drives overall economic growth. And far be it from us to be critical of a small chamber of commerce and their friends in the government to push for a better deal for local merchants, regardless of how strongly we advocate for online shopping.
No, the REAL issue at hand here, which has been echoed every single time one of these local shopping initiatives is launched, is the impact on the consumers themselves.
The bottom line is that consumers everywhere deserve the opportunity to find the best price on whatever they’re looking for. Heck, that’s one of the founding tenets of online shopping! Choice breeds competition. It also makes for smarter consumers.
The problem with local shopping initiatives like this one in Connecticut is not just that they’re designed to restrict that choice. It’s a matter of penalizing consumers in the name of helping local businesses.
At this point in time, when the U.S. economy is still not at full health and unemployment figures nationwide remain in double-digits, it seems inappropriate to demand that consumers divert their spending dollars towards options that may not make the most fiscal sense for them. If a shopper can find a better deal online than they would at their local store, why shouldn’t they take advantage of that deal?
This issue reveals some serious questions about where the financial priorities should be when municipalities and business groups choose to move forward with local shopping campaigns:
Does small business success trump the financial health of a local area’s consumers?
Should shoppers take a possible financial hit in the name of supporting local businesses?
How successful can a local shopping campaign truly be in light of the economic climate in this country?
Should brick and mortar retailers eschew local shopping campaigns in favor of expanding their own online presence even more, be it through expanding e-commerce platforms and offerings or branching out to social newtowrking sites as well?
We’re leaving today’s blog open-ended. We’ve stated our opinion on the issue, now we want to hear what you think? Leave us a comment with your thoughts below!
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