Visiting the local book store after dinner was a family tradition of ours. Every time we finished eating, we would all walk over to the nearest book store, split off into our favorite aisles and stay there until all of our food was digested. As I grew up, I discovered eBooks and audiobooks and was no longer forced to visit libraries and book stores as frequently. A few months ago, I decided to go back again with my mom to revisit old memories. We were greeted with a handwritten sign saying ‘We’ve moved’ and my favorite corner empty.
It’s not just book stores; walking down California Avenue, you can count a handful of stores that have recently gone out of business or are no longer able to stay on the street due to high rents.
While there are many reasons for this, it’s clear that online shopping has been a contributing factor. Customers who buy online miss an essential part of what businesses can offer — the social interaction that Amazon or Etsy cannot provide.
If Palo Altans don’t want local businesses to vanish, they have a responsibility to shop locally first, even if it isn’t as economic or convenient for them.
With online shopping’s reach amplifying, citizens need to become more committed to Palo Altan businesses, as without these customers, local businesses will fade away. When gone, these stores will take with them service and connection, the main difference which distinguishes local and online purchases.
We are on the path to purchasing almost everything online. A 2016 Pew Research study found that rates of online shopping have rapidly been increasing.
Despite the benefits of online shopping, local businesses create something which retailers, met through a computer, could never create. In an online transaction, the product is transferred from the hands of the mailman directly into your home and there is no mandate for the buyer to leave their house. Yet, shopping is not just about the exchange of goods — it is also about the human interaction that comes with it.
A salesperson will help you better find what you are looking for and can tailor a product to your needs. While Amazon has certain formulas that help predict future purchases, they will never be as accurate as a person’s insights.
Local businesses also hold more responsibility over item quality than would an online merchant like eBay.
As companies like Amazon sell products through private individuals, if a product is damaged or unreliable, the fault is placed on the private seller.
If a local merchant sells you a pair of shoes which fall apart in one day, it’s easier to go back and tell them about the dissatisfactory purchase. If your seller lives across the country, your options are limited to an angry email or phone call.
Most importantly, local businesses can engage with the local community.
For example, with the support of the community, Vanessa Yakobson and her husband were able to grow their San Franciscan blow dry bar franchise, Blo. With all that customers give to businesses, Yakobson recognizes the importance of giving back to the community.
“They [the businesses] are employing people from the community and giving them wonderful work opportunities,” Yakobson says. “Many of our owners will contribute to their community by hosting events in their locations and giving back to charity.”
In Palo Alto, local businesses and retailers have been having trouble keeping their businesses afloat.
Research company ComScore found that millenials are more satisfied with online shopping than their parents. The largest consumer of online products is currectly in the 18 – 34 age range, even though they have lower incomes.Current high school student have the power to decide what their cities will look like in 50 years.
Supporting your local business is not a difficult task. Shop locally and be a customer in your own community. In the process, you might find your special place to come back to.