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A Publication of WTVP

Protecting Our Local Retail Economy

The attraction of “convenience” is the silent killer of our local retail economy.

by Mick Hall, Bard Optical |
Mick Hall

If you’ve ever been snorkeling, scuba diving or simply watched Planet Earth reruns, you know that coral reefs are the center of a complex ecosystem for countless marine species. When healthy, they offer opportunities for the survival of a wide range of fish and other creatures that rely on each other and the coral reef to grow and prosper.

A strong local retail economy is akin to a healthy coral reef. When customers purchase from local retailers, those funds provide tax revenue to support local schools, libraries and infrastructure. In turn, local retailers can grow a vibrant workforce that reinvests their salaries back into the local economy and supports local real estate. Local retailers also purchase supplies and services from other local businesses, which further enhances our economic health.

The Threat of Convenience
But just as there are environmental issues that threaten to destroy a coral reef, our local retail economy faces a potentially devastating threat: internet shopping. Whether it’s Amazon or the millions of other e-commerce websites, each time a consumer decides to forego a trip to a local retailer and instead sends their purchasing dollars out of the area, sometimes out of state, and even out of the country, the local retail economy takes a hit.

Sure, sitting in a bathrobe at 2am purchasing a pair of shoes on the internet might sound very convenient. But the attraction of “convenience” is the silent killer of our local retail economy. Had that same consumer gone to a local retailer to purchase those shoes, she would have injected tax dollars into our local coffers. She might have stopped for coffee at another shop or gotten her car washed. Over time, as more and more consumers bypass local retailers in favor of internet shopping, the less revenue the local retailer has available. In the end, they may be forced to cut employees and possibly close the business.

Committed to Community
At Bard Optical, we are proud to support our fellow local retailers and service providers. We use union labor to complete our office buildouts. We purchase flooring, paint, vehicles and countless supplies locally. We pay our taxes, employ 200 people across the state, and participate in chambers of commerce. We have employees who serve on local charitable and civic boards, and we donate to support local causes near and dear to our heart. Are we unique? Absolutely not! We proudly share this commitment to local retail with hundreds of other companies which make up the fabric of our communities. This commitment to our communities is what separates local retailers from internet vendors that strip cash from the local economy without investing anything in return.
Because there is no local investment, internet vendors are often able to offer lower prices. But this short-term benefit for the consumer will ultimately backfire when there are no local shops left and the tax revenue evaporates.

So, the next time you find that great pair of shoes online, ask whether that internet purchase is worth the damage it will do to our retail coral reef. If we all buy local, our combined purchasing power grows exponentially, and our retail economy will continue to thrive. We will be able to attract new retailers and skilled labor to the area, and our tax base will balloon. So put the mouse down and make that trip to a local retailer! PM

Mick Hall is vice president and general counsel at Bard Optical. For more information, visit bardoptical.com.

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