The Daily Journal, December 6, 2013
Locally-owned shops versus national retail stores? An afterthought for us, but for small businesses it can mean life or death. “I made my living in this community,” said 79-year-old Paul Cardosi as he was having his watch band repaired at Andaul Jewelers in Bourbonnais. “Why not shop locally? People supported my businesses.”
While figures vary, Stacy Mitchell, senior researcher for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, an organization that’s dedicated to supporting independent businesses, said 25 percent to 33 percent of all retail sales are made from mid-November through Dec. 25.
That means it’s critical for the so-called “mom and pop” stores to cash in during the weeks leading up to Christmas.
“Awareness must be raised in the public,” Mitchell said. “We’re asking them to think about the choices they make.”
Mitchell said the game is far from over for locals, but they must get their “buy local” message out and that message must be delivered throughout the year, not just at the holiday.
Shimkus agreed. She said the “buy local” campaign has not been consistently put in front of shoppers and a renewed effort should be made to do just that.
Still, some merchants have virtually given up on the holiday season. Steve Linneman, owner of the Bradley bicycle shop, Tern of the Wheel, for the past 28 years, said perhaps only 5 percent of his annual sales takes place in December.
That number has changed dramatically over the course of many years. Christmas was a large part of his business many years ago.
Linneman said his shop simply does not sell the volume of bikes that would allow him to lower his prices the way big box stores can.
“We don’t count on holiday shoppers. We get lost in the shuffle. I could spend a lot of money on ads and promotions, but that won’t make Christmas a big season for us. I can’t compete with Black Friday,” he said. “Our season is from March through the summer.”
Mitchell said small business can use a helping hand. Zoning laws and financial incentives can give multimillion dollar companies an unfair advantage. “This can’t be just about consumers making choices,” she said. “It also has to be about city officials and government making different choices.”