Shopping Local – what does that mean to you?
Are Shopping Tendencies Killing our Holiday Spirit (and Downtowns)?
Back when the economy was bustling, and costs for so many items were in line with personal income (eg., gasoline, real estate, food), it seemed folks had more discretionary income to spend here and there, and didn’t worry where they could save a dollar or two. Then again, the ability to shop online so conveniently didn’t exist until recently, and we didn’t get dozens of daily coupons in our inbox to tempt us away from our “downtown” or central shopping districts.
Our parents and grandparents shopped local more often, and that was good for them as well as the local economy. Some might even argue that it added to the experience. Maybe it wasn’t just about filling a box with the most convenient acceptable item, but actually seeking out something home-made or unique that was most special. Is that one thing about the holidays that’s also changed with our ability to purchase a present with one click?
How far has local shopping fallen over the years?
Phrases you hear all the time in Hoboken and communities across the country are “support local businesses” and “shop local.”
But besides just the idea of “spending money in your own neighborhood,” what does it all mean to you? To the local businesses? To the property owners, and the community in general?
Someone has to suffer – but whom?
The whole “shop local” puzzle has several “money pieces” to consider:
- Shoppers. Some are suffering economically – rising prices, lack of salary increases, bloated property taxes, fuel costs, food costs, and much more. To them, their extra pocket money is likely spent more wisely – and some luxury items are scratched off their lists. And shopping online certainly is convenient, and much less costly in most situations.
- Local businesses. Their overhead could be rising (power, taxes, cost of goods, exorbitant rent). The downward trend in overall shoppers may result in less “sales,” and even some product cost increases.
- Property Landlords. Real Estate taxes (especially in Hoboken) have skyrocketed nearly 50% in the past couple years. Not sure how this has affected all landlords, but some have naturally raised rents for the retailers, while others just want to attract high-paying “chain” stores to pad their pockets even more.
Bonus: What about local government? Instead of giving back budget surpluses to the residents, they continue handing big fat raises to their salaried friends at city hall, and keeping property taxes sky high.
Who can pick up and save local businesses?
As you can see – there are many pieces to this shop local puzzle. But most of the time – you see the onus exclusively put on the shoppers – with everyone urging the community to “shop local.”
So in an attempt to understand the hype that it directs towards consumers, I’d like to ask a few questions of Hoboken residents to see how dramatically the shopping landscape really has changed in the past ten years or so. I’d like to know if everyone out there is just one click away from buying another iPad – or if there are still some old souls out there listening to the holiday music, and hoping for snow as they shop door-to-door.
Where do you shop?
- What percent of your holiday shopping budget will be spent locally (or in Hoboken) this year? 10 years ago?
- What percentage of your holiday budget will be spent “hitting the pavement” anywhere in NY or NJ this year? 10 years ago?
- What percentage of your holiday shopping budget will be spent from your desk chair via the internet this year? 10 years ago?
Poll: Why do you shop where you shop most?
Does the city of Hoboken do enough to help local businesses?
After speaking with MANY local merchants – one surprising answer that was mentioned frequently – was the LACK of effort the city of Hoboken puts into attracting customers to the Mile Square.
Several shop owners noticed that the city itself (at least the main avenue) doesn’t look festive at all. Hardly a Christmas feel – with barely a snowflake per block. Remember last year, the city threw out all the Christmas decorations in their madly uncoordinated rush to fiddle with the municipal garage. Some residents told me that this mainly Christian event is of no interest to our city officials.
Hoboken is penny-wise, dollar foolish when it comes to holidays
Some business owners had fantastic ideas to help vault Hoboken to the top of the list of local shopping locations in the NYC tri-state area. Some of them included (and none of which the city is doing):
- Relaxed parking enforcement the entire month of December. Free municipal garage parking 7 days a week, along with NO enforcement of meters, or permit parking streets.
- Area marketing promotions. In particular – Billboards en route to the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, signs along various NJ Transit Routes, PATH stops and more – promoting the relaxed & free parking rules. This will help not only local shops – but bars and restaurants as well. As you already know – the Hoboken parking ticket racket is driving shoppers and patrons away IN DROVES. Apparently the city cares more about their own pay raises for friends, than the health of the local economy overall.
- Make Hoboken a festive winter wonderland. If you look at the downtowns and shopping districts in other cities – they’re bustling with energy, and can even put many people back into the Christmas (and shopping) spirit. There is no such energy here in Hoboken, and it just solidifies the depression most of the city is in. City officials just have no clue when it comes to running things around here.
Hopefully, the rest of this month picks up for our struggling local economy – and instead of receiving dirty lumps of “parking boot coal,” shoppers can support our unique shops and restaurants instead.