Small towns urge shift in shopping

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Posted 7/31/18 (Tue)

Whines & Roses
By Cecile Wehrman

I went to Tioga last week to share with members of the Tioga Chamber what Crosby’s Buy Close By program is all about.
The first thing I had to confess is that the genesis of our idea was seeing a similar program in Kenmare.
That’s how it works with good ideas -- they’re pretty universal. No matter how many miles separate our small towns, our individual economic islands are similar. Some of us have more industry than retail, some are closer to competing towns, but all recognize the reality that if local residents don’t buy what they can at home, there will be less to buy there in the future.
You’d be wise to give as much of your grocery dollar as possible to your local market -- not just running in to buy milk or eggs once a week. You may feel as if you’re being a wise shopper if you stock up on bulk goods at the big box store, but how much is it going to cost you when the local store closes and you have to drive 50 miles for milk and eggs?
Another example: In the year's span the Tioga Tribune was located in Ray and Shopko came to Tioga, the Tribune should have stopped stocking computer ink, because people stopped buying it from us. Location was part of the issue, and we couldn’t compete with their price. Today there is no place in Tioga to buy a computer ink cartridge that I know of. Shopko is closed and the Tribune could no longer justify stocking them.
Many factors go into purchasing decisions, but price and convenience have to be two of the biggest drivers. Clearly, it’s not convenient to drive to a bigger town for ink, but thank goodness they are available online, right? 
If I could have had diapers and wipes delivered to my door 25 years ago when I was a young mom, could I have resisted? If that had been possible two decades ago would today’s moms in Crosby still have a local option for such supplies? I wonder.
As we discussed in Tioga, shame is a pretty good motivator to get people to change behavior. At the same time, no one is suggesting you’re a bad citizen if you buy some things online or out of town.
What local chambers are suggesting instead is that you DO buy what you can locally. If Crosby’s sales increased just 10 percent, it would create an extra $33,000 in income. 
Consumers are told to stock up and buy in bulk. But what are the larger costs? Not just gas or shipping fees -- but in a lost sale at the place where your neighbor works, or at the store that supports youth hockey?
It’s hard to calculate those costs because your neighbor may stay at that job for years and the donations to youth events won’t end overnight. Then, overnight, the neighbor moves away because they can’t get a raise or the merchant retires and no one wants that business.
We make the decision to live in North Dakota based on economic realities -- but for quality of life, too. That’s why when I ran to Williston Saturday, I left behind some things I could have purchased there. Toilet paper and paper towels, laundry detergent and cleaning supplies are all available at hometown stores. And picking up a grandson for a weekend visit was much more precious cargo to tote home.

Dirty business
Why does everything that comes on the UPS truck appear as if it’s been hauled from Kathmandu? Or drug behind the truck on a sled?
Whether opening stock we want to sell or receiving a product not available in Crosby, I am disgusted each time I touch one of these boxes. The amount of dirt clinging to the packages is crazy.
If I forget, and pick up one of these vessels without wiping it down first, whatever I am wearing to work is covered in dust. Then, there’s the issue of lifting goods meant for sale out of a filthy box without transferring the dust to the new product. 
It’s also hard to fathom that all of these trucks carrying cardboard boxes to individual consumers makes more sense than people bringing those products home from a store. More and more shuttered stores at malls seem to say otherwise. We are, with our shopping behaviors today, shaping the shopping choices we will have tomorrow.