It's a movement

Nov 29, 2019 Steven R. Peck, Publisher

Apparently, the concept of shopping in local stores is being described in some circles as a "movement."

That term suggests that shopping at home is some new or novel concept for which the public needs to be persuaded, educated and even driven - like the right to vote for women, or Earth Day.

Is this really what it has come to? The shop-local "movement"?

Today there are national media and public relations organizations pushing hard for people to remember that they live in communities, and that a solid local retail market is central to community life and success.

Locally, our newspaper office adorns its big front window with a shop-local display. We carry ads touting shop-local opportunities (pages 11 and 12 again today).

Wintertime festivals and promotions around the theme are put together every year, with the idea of giving our local stores a better chance to have a good holiday season in a retail arena which has been reshaped by online shopping via the Internet.

Well, maybe that is a movement. If so, we're all in.

In leafing through a volume of newspapers from 50 years ago, we encountered news coverage and advertising related to the old Riverton holiday custom called the "Christmas Opening." In it, every retail business in town, or at least it seemed that way, agreed to be open from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on a designated night, usually the Friday, Saturday and/or Monday following Thanksgiving, with special prices, special promotions, appearances by Santa, costumed store personnel, sometimes a Christmas parade and other activities based on the unified effort of the local retail community, and the unwavering support for that retail community by the residents of the town.

"Shop Riverton - Christmas City," read the ads. Hmmm... Sounds like it was a movement back then, too.

Times have changed in many ways since then, and today's Internet shopping aligns perfectly with what is become the principal recreational and social activity for many people - namely, staring at a cell phone screen, a tablet or laptop computer, or sitting in front of the desktop PC with your feet up and a beer or glass of wine in your hand.

While we're communicating electronically with Grandma, the kids and the friends, while we are sharing photos and recipes online, while we're watching videos of cats flushing the toilet, posting pictures of what we had for lunch, and arguing about politics - all from the comfy convenience of home and a glowing computer screen - then the temptation is strong to do the Christmas shopping that way as well.

But there are many reasons to continue to encourage, even insist, that local stores get local dollars from the people who live in the towns, depend on them for services, and who need successful retail businesses even if they don't always realize it.

Today, as the unofficial/official Christmas shopping season begins on a shortened calendar in which Christmas is not much more than three weeks after Thanksgiving, we urge citizens of our community to make a commitment to supporting our local businesses. (Your local newspaper, we might add, is one of those.)

Whenever you drive through a town and feel that it is past its prime, has lost its vitality, or, heaven forbid, even appears to be a dying community, a common thread exists: little or no local retail shopping district.

Nothing says "community vitality and health" the way that a few blocks of lively, attractive prosperous local stores says it. And the only way that climate can exist is if the people who live in the communities commit to supporting those businesses.

We all hear of "school spirit," and we believe in it. We must apply the same sense ability to "town spirit."

It doesn't mean that every dollar must be spent locally. The modern online economy simply rules out that possibility. But it does mean that our local shops, who provide jobs, support families, pay local taxes, contribute to worthy local causes, and help supply vital and irreplaceable community services, must have local support.

They deserve it, they have earned it, they require it, and everybody needs it.

Happy holidays, and shop local. Let's make it a movement.

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