Shopping Locally Supports Job Creation
By Mickey Howley
The day after Thanksgiv-ing has been called “Black Friday” only recently. The term was coined in Philadelphia, Penn., in 1966 and was used initially by the police department to refer to the heavy traffic around the downtown shopping area the day after Thanksgiving.
The expression has transformed since the early 90s; it has come to mean the start of the holiday shopping season and a day for discounts at big box stores. One hears “Black Friday” described as the busiest shopping day of the year, but that has only been true since 2005. “Cyber Monday,” a term describing heavy on-line shopping sales promoted by online only discounts, has only been around since 2005, too.
These two recent Holiday Season shopping phenomena are the most recent hurt on local Main Street merchants. Those two days represent the two recent threats to downtown merchants; big box retailers and online discounters.
But downtown merchants have adapted to past challenges. When suburban shopping malls with their big anchor department stores sprang up in the 60s and 70s, many downtowns tried to copy the look with themed downtown districts or the shopping district unified awning (Holly Springs and Pascagoula did that and they are now taking them down) or buildings given aluminum “slipcovers” to make them look modern. Downtown Grenada and Greenwood still have examples of this slip covering over historic commercial buildings. Theses design efforts to compete with the mall-shopping trend were window dressing and masked Main Street’s consistent advantages.
Main Street shopping has always been about smaller stores and so the unified mall copying look only blurred what shoppers like about downtown: the individual stores. This individuality of the stores often means they are smaller and the odds are the business owner will be the one serving you when you come in.
That is the advantage Main Street has always had and always will have: the business owner (and usually established employees) know your wants and needs and will give consistently greater service than an anonymous person who only works for the big box retailers for the holiday season.
Main Street merchants will always have convenience to their advantage: the shopping is right downtown, no long drive to shop, or long walk across the mall parking lot either.
There are a number of other reasons to shop downtown. Shopping locally is the best way to support local job creation. Every business open on Main Street supports two to ten people, people who live here. Shopping locally keeps local businesses strong, and a strong downtown business zone reflects on the community at large as an indicator of how well a town is doing.
By now you have heard of the ripple effect of local purchasing, how your dollar spent here stays here and continues to work as a multiplier rather than disappearing out of state. But the ripple effect also extends into an intangible but very important real feeling of local success. This look or feel of local success encourages others to invest and be a part.
The Water Valley Christ-mas Parade is this Saturday, so before or after the parade, drop in and visit your local downtown businesses and consider shopping Water Valley first.