Thursday, March 4, 2021
March 4, 2021

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In Our View: Shopping local helps community thrive

The Columbian
Published:

Christmas shopping season is here. But before you go stand in line to enter that nationally known store or — more likely — sit down for some online shopping, we urge you to consider where your money is going.

When somebody shops at a big-box store that has a national profile, state and local sales tax is collected and local employees are supported, but the profit gets sent to a far-off headquarters for a company that pays corporate taxes in its home state.

In contrast, when a purchase is made at a locally owned store, the sales tax and employee wages remain in Washington, and so do the businesses taxes and the salary for a locally based proprietor. That money then is used to help other retailers and pay local taxes.

There are benefits, in other words, to keeping your money in the community rather than sending it to, say, Bentonville, Ark.

According to a study from Civic Economics, for every $100 spent at a local retailer, $68 stays in the community. Some of it might leave the area if a local business purchases supplies or finished items from an outside retailer, but most of it remains close to home.

But if $100 is spent with a nonlocal company, an average of $43 remains in the community. Look at it this way: Somebody is paying for all those Walmart and Target commercials on TV and all those corner offices at corporate headquarters.

In addition, if you purchase something online to be delivered by a global conglomerate, the only community benefit is paying the salary of a delivery driver. With people staying home because of the coronavirus pandemic, Amazon’s second quarter profit this year was $5.2 billion — a year-over-year increase of 100 percent.

All of this is a way to encourage shopping at local businesses, a community contribution that is more important than ever this year. And, yes, that includes subscribing to your community newspaper.

With businesses being required to temporarily shut down or limit in-store customers, and with many would-be customers staying home to shop online, local retailers are struggling. Many who have managed to stay open have laid off employees or reduced workers’ hours, and business owners have had to dip into their savings to stay afloat.

Small businesses are a large part of Washington’s economy. As of 2018, according to the U.S. Small Business Association, they accounted for about 99.5 percent of companies in the state and employed more than half of Washington’s private-sector workers.

Meanwhile, according to the city of Vancouver’s website, about 95 percent of the city’s employers are small businesses. Not all of those are retailers, but the data demonstrate the benefits of shopping locally. To assist with that, Visit Vancouver USA has an online list of locally owned retailers.

The impetus for all this is the fact that today is Black Friday, the unofficial start of the Christmas shopping season — a fact that advertisements have been trumpeting for weeks.

Meanwhile, the next day is Small Business Saturday, an occasion created by American Express in 2010. It might not have the shop-til-you-drop excitement of Black Friday, but it is an opportunity to bolster our community. As Forbes.com wrote in 2015: “Is it really so troubling that small businesses make a momentary appeal for support amidst the suffocating din of holiday advertisements from their larger, more resourced counterparts?”

No, it is not. And supporting those businesses — particularly this year — will help to create a thriving community for us all.

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