Editorial: Shop local to help our communities
Online shopping hasn’t overtaken sales via the brick-and-mortar stores, but what growth there is has been accelerating in that direction.
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Online shopping hasn’t overtaken sales via the brick-and-mortar stores, but what growth there is has been accelerating in that direction. There are some advantages to internet transacting, but arguably not as much as there once were —
states can now collect taxes online as well as from local shops, thanks to a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision.
As Hawaii today launches into the big Black Friday sales, getting their holiday seasonal shopping off to a frenzied start, there are other reasons to “keep it local,” as much as possible.
The national economic analysis firm Civic Economics and the Michigan small-business advocacy group Local First in 2008 published a study, often cited, breaking down the impact of local spending.
According to the study, for every $100 spent locally, $68 stays in the local economy; the same amount spent at a large retailer keeps $43 in the economy. These are dollars that ripple out, bolstering bottom lines and the capacity of the businesses to provide jobs.
And that research was based on data gathered in Michigan; an island state’s retention of local dollars could be at an even higher rate.
As for e-commerce, the high court ruling in South Dakota v. Wayfair Inc. found that online merchants were bound to collect state taxes on their sales, regardless of whether they had a physical presence in that state. Still, most of the revenue flows out of state.
There are times when online purchases can make sense — that’s what the annual “Cyber Monday” seasonal promotion is all about.
But at a time when Hawaii’s economic and social needs loom so large, when rising costs make it harder for isle employers and workers to stay within budget, localizing the holiday shopping, especially on the initial weekend, can be a win-win for all concerned.
Customers at physical stores benefit from service that retail staff can provide; returns and exchanges can be easier, as well, than through an online seller. Evaluating the actual item up close can avoid misunderstandings and mixups discovered on delivery.
Following the initial crush of shoppers (“Black Friday” got its name because business is traditionally heavy enough to push the retailer sales “into the black” for the year), there is another prompt to buy local. This is the 10th year of Small Business Saturday, a promotion created by the credit giant American Express in the middle of the Great Recession.
Hawaii has recovered well since that economic slump, but small businesses still face considerable challenges to meet rising expenses. The AmEx slogan for the day, “Shop Small,” can be a guide for funneling seasonal spending to mom-and-pop businesses, restaurants, sole proprietorships and other island-based shops.
Local products do have a special cachet for gift-giving, especially when dispatched to snowbound friends and family on the mainland. And the myriad craft fairs that pop up throughout the state could be choice destinations, places that may yield that unique find.
Capping off the initial burst of shopping would be Giving Tuesday, an annual focus on charity. Even there, the phrase “think globally, act locally” applies.
Setting an admirable example was a group of friends who started their Black Friday campout on Monday at Best Buy Aiea. Renaming it “Give Back Friday,” they planned to scoop up their bargains for the nonprofit Family Programs Hawaii, supporting foster children and families.
Whether through shopping or charitable donations, local holiday spending can be a gift to the community, as well as to one who unwraps the present beneath the tree. Shoppers should consider that as they don their Santa hats.