Will The Last Customer Please Shut The Door?
Don’t use businesses as showrooms in order to make a purchase somewhere else. Allow your local merchants the dignity to make respectable livings.
All over America, we are losing countless mom-and-pop stores, delightful boutiques, small businesses and franchises. This is true in La Grange, La Grange Park, and within every community in Cook County and Illinois. Is the recessionary economy the culprit?
Unless you are the owner of one of those businesses, have a family relationship with a proprietor, or count a franchisee as a friend, you may think the demise of those businesses is a fault of management. It is easy to suppose that a business closure came about because of cash management problems, labor costs, inappropriate ordering of merchandise or some other facetious reason. Odds are the primary reason for the business failures can be attributed to a lack of supportive customers.
It has been shared with me that some shoppers that frequent our retailers are using businesses to check out their merchandise and then head home to order the exact item on the Internet. Apparently there are “shoppers” that reside in our regional and local communities that are asking many “buying” questions about clothes and styles, actually trying them on and then making their purchase at a cyber-business that pays no taxes to the village, or county, or state. Can you believe that?
In some instances, pretend buyers are asking for hands-on evaluations of their feet so that they can be perfectly fitted for running shoes. After about 45 minutes of hard work by the sales person, the non-buyer asks if the sales person will write all the information down for them. These “lookie loos” have no intention of shopping locally. They do intend to buy the same quality items from an Internet business that could care two spits about local issues or the need to pay for village services. Isn’t that rude?
There are loving grandparents that are frequenting area stores in search of the perfect baby outfits, christening dresses or darling dolls. They are asking the owner for their undivided attention, but when the owner of the shop is not looking or has a back turned, some effusive grandparents are using their cell phones to take a picture of the item and the bar-code so they can determine where they can buy the perfect baby gift for less. Doesn’t it seem appropriate to forcefully have these culprits removed from the store and be unceremoniously “kicked to the curb” or banned from ever re-entering the establishment?
If you think this is not happening – think again. Stories like these are becoming so rampant that such activities could change the dynamics of our communities and destroy the concept of small business and retailing. Why would anyone open a local business if they can’t assume honest local support? Do we only want restaurants and pizza purveyors to occupy our retail spaces?
Of course we all like bargains. Who doesn’t like to save some money? But, shouldn’t we have an allegiance to the local businesses that make up our commercial base? Shouldn’t we support those business risk takers that provide jobs, collect sales taxes, donate to our charities, put our posters in the windows and do so much for our villages? Shouldn’t we play fair?
In business, you really don’t make a net profit until the last week or days of the month. Whatever profits are earned in the earlier part of the month go towards rent, fees, labor costs, taxes, lights, heat or cooling, water bills, cleaning expenses, and the replacement of inventory. Major disruptions in sales may preclude that the business owners will earn much in the way of net profit. After few months or seasons of this, you and I might see another sign in the window that simply says, “Going out of business.” Will we chalk the failure up as cash flow problems, bad management or some other excuse?
As you walk around La Grange Park and La Grange, or any other community for that matter, you definitely have to be noticing that there are an inordinate amount of empty retail locations. The owners of the buildings are taking huge hits from the loss of rents—though they have to continue paying ever-increasing taxes.
Having fewer retailers, the villages and county are earning less sales tax revenue, and thus that obligation to pay more personal taxes falls upon the shoulders of the residents (that means you and your neighbors). By having empty shops there is less foot traffic and that has a detrimental effect on nearby businesses—thus lowering their opportunity to sell products and services and earn necessary profits. Before long, the death spiral widens and becomes more pronounced.
How we treat our retailers defines the type of downtown we will have for years to come. How often we frequent local businesses determines if the businesses will operate next year or not. How we spend our money is critical to having proprietors meet our needs. Without a doubt, the ball is in our court.
For the foreseeable future the Internet will be an option. Big box stores are here to stay, too. The same goes with the malls and catalogues. What is not apparent is if we will have commercially viable downtowns.
Please be a fair and honest customer. Don’t use businesses as showrooms in order to make a purchase somewhere else. Allow your local merchants the dignity to make respectable livings. Spend as much as you can close to where you live and within the communities that border your village or city.
Remember, about 65 percent of your shopping dollars stay in your town when you shop locally. Always keep in mind that none of your shopping dollars help your community pay bills and provide public services when you spend your money in cyberspace. How you shop may determine if the merchant’s door stays open or is closed for good.