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24 Jan '17

What Is The Future of Your Community?

Posted by Ginny Parker

Do you shop Amazon? Here in our small city, we don't have much in the way of shopping malls and big box retail and after checking with our local shops sometimes we have to resort to online shopping. Supporting our local merchants first is part of keeping our community just that, a community. We do have some great choices for retail experiences but occasionally we just can't find it locally. So despite our shop local, shop small inclinations we go to the web.

But a growing concern for us at Baby's First and so many other small retailers, along with many of the big boxes, is the space in the marketplace that is being consumed by Amazon. If you want to make every purchase choice from a screen, then Amazon's your dream come true. But what about those times when you need something NOW. Or maybe you want to touch and feel the product you are considering. Or maybe you have some questions and would like a smile along with the answers, or just even to feel like you are communicating with another human. At the rate Amazon is consuming the marketplace, that won't be possible in the future.

According to the  Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), Amazon is eating up the retail marketplace. Amazon captures nearly one of every two dollars spent online. Some 55 percent of people looking to buy something online start directly on Amazon. Half of all Americans are members of Amazon Prime.

Need more convincing that too much reliance on Amazon may not be such a good thing?  As Amazon keeps growing, it forces smaller retail into one of two boxes. Either the small retailer, or in many cases established big boxes, can continue to battle against the big gorilla and watch their on line sales continue to decrease or they can become part of the problem, listing their goods on Amazon where they become dependent on Amazon and have smaller profit margins. For small businesses, neither is a sustainable choice.

The convenience of shopping on Amazon is very tempting for us all.  But as Amazon consumes the marketplace, the local communities are left weaker and workers are left less prosperous.So far Amazon's growth has led to 135 million square feet of retail space becoming vacant, the equivalent of about 700 big-box stores plus 22,000 small businesses. How many vacancies do you see in your community? I know we experience them in our town. Those vacancies mean fewer dollars to be spent locally and fewer property taxes to be paid in the community. ISLR, in their research, has concluded that employees in Amazon’s warehouses make 15 percent less on average than other warehouse workers in the same region earn. Where are the wins in this scenario? Yes, the product we want to buy might be cheaper on Amazon but we'll pay for it in the end in higher taxes.

So the next time you consider purchasing from Amazon consider this: Are the few dollars saved  when you click the buy button worth the future of strong, vibrant communities? What do you want your community to look like, a thriving busy, active neighborhood or a bunch of boarded up businesses?

Of course, we encourage everyone to shop local and shop small. Sometimes that just doesn't work though. We think the next best thing is search for smaller businesses when shopping online. And a last resort might be the big boxes that aren't Amazon. That way the marketplace continues to give us all choices.

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