Another version of shopping locally

Published 4:01 pm Friday, July 24, 2009

Jeff Findley has it right.

Through promotional ads in this newspaper and other marketing initiatives, The Post-Searchlight publisher promotes “shopping locally,” which means, spend your money in the local shops.

As a local business owner for the past 11 years, it’s something I have discussed several times in this space.

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Once upon a time, shopping locally meant avoiding any highway that directed you out-of-town and into the clutches of merchants elsewhere.

Since we have had major retailers join our shopping mix within the past few years, one might think our regular hometown merchants would fear their hot breath grabbing every available retail dollar leaving us only the crumbs.

When Wal-Mart comes new to a town, the giant retailer has been accused of causing the closings of long-time mom and pop businesses, who find it difficult to compete with large-volume buying and low-price selling.

That has occurred in some instances, but the big box retailers are only a part of the competition facing the mom and pop businesses of Bainbridge. A second culprit is “The Internet.”

So those of us in business in Bainbridge and Decatur County have two fronts from which we are being attacked—the big retailers that attempt to grab every shopping dollar in circulation, and the consumer’s belief that you can buy anything cheaper on the Internet.

So, this Saturday, Jeff and The Post-Searchlight are suggesting that you spend $25 in the local stores. A community just like a household or a business depends on cash flow. We lived in a community several years ago when cash flow was almost non-existant. The major employers all decided one Sunday that 6,000 workers could stay home on Monday, and not even think about coming in to work any of the following days, weeks months or years.

It set the town in a tailspin. Nobody paid their bills, their mortgages, car payments, etc., because everyone else wasn’t paying their bills. Hence, no cash flow.

Also, when you spend your money out-of-town or on the Internet, most times you avoid paying sales tax. Any on-line business that does not have a physical presence, a retail outlet, legally escapes charging sales tax., for example, has no retail outlet in any state, so it doesn’t collect sales tax. Barnes and Noble has retail stores all over, so when you buy off the Internet from Barnes and Noble, they must charge you sales tax.

And until Congress changes the commerce laws, billions and billions of dollars in possible sales tax revenue will go uncollected.

When you spend your money in Bainbridge or Decatur County, seven cents of every dollar is collected in sales tax. The state keeps four cents, and the remaining three cents is returned here, going into the coffers of our cities, county and schools.

The one cent that the schools get, for example, has paid for renovations of every one of our school buildings, and has paid for about half the cost of the new high school.

It might be fun to think you can outfox the tax man by purchasing goods on the Internet, but think about the uncollected sales tax that benefits nothing.

In case you are thinking seven pennies on the dollar in sales taxes is small change, here’s an example of big-time lost tax revenue from Internet sales—it is estimated that on-line sales of apparel, footwear and accessories generates about $23 billion in annual sales. If all that were subject to sales taxes, 7 percent would collect $1.6 billion, an amount presently legally uncollected.

Here’s another example of shopping locally. A lady came into the store looking for a certain book. I showed it to her, and she asked if I had it used. No, but I said the book had been in stock for a long time, and she could have it for $10.

“Oh, I can get it in Tallahassee for $5,” she said.

And I suggested, “Be sure to fill up your gas tank before you leave town.”

If you wish to do your civic duty for Bainbridge and Decatur County, whenever possible check with local merchants on your wants and needs first. We would appreciate it. It would be a rare item that we could not fulfill your request faster and cheaper than if you bought it on the Internet.

Thanks, Jeff for staying in front of this topic.