For the better part of the last several years, and in the lead up to the election we have heard an endless litany of news about how bad the economy is. As we start down the road to a fiscal cliff, and congress battles with an entrenched president, it seems like there is very little chance of the economy improving in the near future. In a very real sense we are at make or break time for what could be an entire way of life, and the future is very much in our hands. Despite the fact that income is at the lowest levels in years, the burden of national debt
is crushing the nation, and any hint of recovery is beyond slow there is always hope in the form of the consumers own mindset. With everything else bleak, retailers everywhere are looking to the consumers to try and salvage the year as we roll into the holiday season.
With the election now in the history books, and a space of two weeks between us and it, retailers are furiously working to whip up support for the Christmas season which begins with the traditional kick off on Black Friday. Learning lessons from the presidential campaign, a blitz of media advertising about the holidays and endless spending have hit the air waves. Everywhere you look things are starting to look a lot like Christmas, festivities are in the air, and an endless monotony of carols are blaring through the speakers of every store. While it may be argued that some retailers are taking things a little bit too far, bordering on the obnoxious or even the slightly crass, the fact is this is make or break for many retail outlets. In a sense they need to get our attention and overcome popular concepts about the economy in order to drive business into the stores and funds into the coffers. If people hold back on the spending at Christmas this year, it could spell disaster for the entire retail industry as a whole and the smaller retailer in specific.
For many retailers, especially specialty retailers like Radio Shack that are hanging on by a thread, the holiday season represents between two thirds and one half of their annual revenues. Take away that revenue, or reduce it significantly, and there is simply not enough money to keep the businesses in operation. Having a strong shopping season during the holidays can mean the difference between another year in operation and insolvency. When it comes to the small mom and pop retailer, this becomes even more crucial.
According to Fred Lizza, CEO of Dydacomp a solid holiday plan can attract new and repeat customers, allowing small retailers
to have strong holidays sales which can then carry over and continue the trend through the rest of the year.
While there is little doubt that we are unlikely to see an economic drought similar to the 2009, when the shopping malls turned into veritable ghost towns it is also true that the upturn in the economic fortunes of retails have been largely driven by the larger chain retail outlets. The chain stores and large retailers have the added advantage of being able to afford to offer amazing specials
which traditionally draw large crowds on Black Friday and throughout the holiday season.
It is important to remember, as shoppers and members of the community, that the holiday seasons shopping is not just about coming up with unique gift ideas for Christmas or about getting the best bargain. By remaining cognizant of the fact that where we spend our money demonstrates our commitment to the community and helps to build an environment in which we want to spend our time. Shops that get our loyalty, and our money, will survive whereas stores that we skip could go under and a local icon could disappear into the annals of history forever.
Ahead of Black Friday, and all the bonanzas it offers many shoppers are microscopically scanning the internet looking for the spots to hit, the greatest price deductions and the coolest gizmos on sale. Deals on the Amazon Kindle Fire will be quickly scooped up, the flat screens will disappear before noon, and the computer will be happily humming on someone’s desk before nightfall. Lists become critically important to make sure we hit the stores we like and get the deals we have waited all year for. So here is a suggestion in the run up to Black Friday, when making a list take some time to include the local, independent and regional stores. The guys who cannot compete on a national level nor have millions of dollars to spend on enticing advertising. Spend some time pre-holidays getting to know who your local stores are and what they offer; you might be surprised at the prices. Keep them on your radar, recommend them to a friend, and potential keep them around for another few seasons.
Consumers as a whole benefit from the kind of competition, innovation, intimacy and local flavor found at the mom and pop stores and one off retail outlet. Shopping there ensures that the pendulum does not swing completely away from them in favor of large and often very impersonal national chains. It also helps to build a community, since smaller retailers tend to spend their own money within the communities they serve by sponsoring little league teams
, participating in local charities, and getting involved in city initiatives. Community leaders often come from the pool of local entrepreneurs because they are intimately aware of the challenges faced by their particular communities.
This is not intended to take away anything from the success large box stores have built for themselves, and often they are the best place to find a great bargain. At the same time, it behooves us as a society to ensure that we keep our community stores alive to prevent everything from becoming one note. Just like the election, where our vote could make the difference, we have an opportunity to influence the future of retailers everywhere. Taking the time to be considerate of the smaller, local store could be the difference between us having a choice or the big box retail being the only game in town.