Editorial: Shop local now, plan local for later

Posted 11/23/18

The hype around Small Business Saturday is great. It steers money into local businesses, brings neighbors face to face, and reminds people about the vital importance of small merchants in a community …

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Editorial: Shop local now, plan local for later

Posted

The hype around Small Business Saturday is great. It steers money into local businesses, brings neighbors face to face, and reminds people about the vital importance of small merchants in a community like Bristol. If downtown were the domain of neon signs and big-box logos, Bristol would less interesting — less Bristol.

Yet Small Business Saturday is fleeting, and the economic boost is short-lived for those who depend on locals to keep them in business. By Monday, the hype will be forgotten, especially when all attention turns to “Cyber Monday.”

While consumers will spend billions on Small Business Saturday, they will be spending billions more shopping online on Monday — and every day following. According to Adobe, Cyber Monday deals generated nearly $7 billion in sales a year ago — up nearly 20 percent from the year prior. Expect another increase this year.

The world has shifted. It is too easy, too cheap and too flexible to shop with the swipe of a thumb while nestled under a blanket on the couch — or to roll out of the largest Route 6 retailers with purchases 20 percent less than can be found on Main Street.

Only the very best small retailers survive in this climate, which is what can be found in downtown Bristol today. Small retailers, led by hard-working and super involved owners, offering unique, quality products, still keep the lights on in choice locations downtown. But they are the last remaining merchants from a once thriving district.

As Bristol looks to the future, it must recognize this shift and plan accordingly. The empty storefronts — many of them designed for retail window shopping — not only hurt their landlords, they impair the entire downtown district.

The future of commerce in downtown Bristol will be experiential and service-based (food, coffee, entertainment, fitness, health), and the town should steer all planning and economic engines in this direction, by encouraging people to live there and stay there.

A decade from now, a healthy downtown district should include communities of people living together, who walk a block or two (or three) to buy their coffee, meet friends for a drink, get a bite to eat, practice yoga, enjoy a pedicure, blow out their hair, charter a boat and see a show. Many of those businesses are thriving downtown now, but the district will need more people and more entertainment to truly thrive a decade from now.

In the short-term, shop local.

For the long-term, plan local, to sustain a healthy, vibrant downtown.

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Meet our staff
Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.