Can’t get that

Published 8:53 am Monday, November 3, 2008

Holidays are upon us.

Thanksgiving, then the holidays of December to the first day of the New Year.

Predictions are that this will be a prudent shopping season, that folks with squashed incomes due to still high gas prices, advancing food prices, shrinking investments, declining property values and other financial setbacks, will impact holiday spending.

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Who could blame you.

It’s been a financial roller-coaster year for most folks. Pure madness.

Many local businesses this time of year await the last two months to bring their books into balance, to end the year in the black, getting bills paid, investing in new inventory and maybe having a few bucks remaining for some personal shopping.

So, the best those of us in local business can ask is, whenever possible, please shop locally.

Over the past 10 years, retailing in Bainbridge has drastically transformed. Locally owned businesses have seen their share of available local spending spread thin among big box chains and smaller chain retailers. Used to be that weekend shopping trips to Tallahassee were common, heading for the malls with big-name retailers. Now, with increased retail in Bainbridge, and high cost of driving to Tallahassee and back, it makes more sense to check out local retailers first.

Those of us operating what is commonly referred to as “mom and pop” retail stores are feeling the pinch now of another competitor—the Internet.

Internet sales are now in the billions, with holiday spending projections this season to top $44 billion, up 12 percent over last year, and climbing. According to a Forrester Research Inc. study taken in September, and reported in The Wall Street Journal this week, most people believe they can get most anything cheaper by shopping the Internet.

They also believed that higher gas prices would make it even more likely shoppers would stay at home and spend their gift-giving dollars on the Internet. The conception is that whatever you need, the survey reported, can be purchased cheaper somewhere on the Internet if you have a credit card and the confidence that your personal financial information will not be compromised or victimized.

There’s nothing wrong with shopping around. It’s the American way. All that those of us in local business ask is “give us your consideration,” and if we cannot fulfill your needs, then do what you must do.

Let’s take one “onliner” as an example of bigtime purchases., which sells everything from books to zippers, expects sales this year to be somewhere between $18 billion and $19 billion. That’s billion not million, folks. What’s tragic about is that prior to the economic downtown, the company had predicted annual sales this year between $19 billion and $20 billion. What will they do now since they are going to be possibly down $1 billion in sales. Woe, woe, woe.

Now, don’t feel sorry for Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive officer for Because of the economic downtown, Bezos reportedly lost $4.8 billion from investments, mostly in his own company stock. Please. It isn’t necessary to order a bunch of stuff from that you don’t need only to help the poor guy recover his losses.

Just remember this:

• A customer is short of cash while picking up an ordered item, but the retailer says “it’s not a problem. Take the merchandise and pay the rest next time you come in.” You can’t get that kind of service from the Internet or from the big boxers.

• A customer is homebound, cannot get to your store, so sometime that day, a special order is home-delivered with a smile and personal chat. You can’t get that kind of service from the Internet.

• A local charity needs a door prize, or a sponsor for their event, and the local merchants respond in kind. You can’t squeeze those donations from the Internet.

• A customer needs a gift with special personalized wrapping. You can’t get that on the Internet.

• A customer needs a special item, and can’t find it anywhere, but you know through your business suppliers exactly where to find it at a reasonable price. You can’t get that service on the Internet.

• A customer calls your store, and a live person, usually the owner, answers the phone. You never get that on the Internet.

• A local merchant has suppliers he deals with who can get merchandise just as quick and many times quicker than you can get it delivered through the Internet.

• Customers walk into a store and they are greeted by name. They can’t see you from the Internet.

Consider this. Money that is spent in Bainbridge stays in Bainbridge, circulates through the community at all levels. Communities and local businesses to be vibrant need a steady cash flow.

Want to help? Shop locally.