November 18, 2013

Shopping locally matters, and not just for the holidays

If you have watched television anytime after November 1st, you have already started seeing ads or hearing jingles for the holiday season from numerous companies. Everyone is vying for your attention to get you to purchase the next big thing. Interestingly, companies such as American Express and Optimum have begun once again to push the marketing of Small Business Saturday, the event after Black Friday where we are encouraged to shop locally. There are definite benefits to shopping locally, and not just for the holidays. But here in the Bronx, as in other poorer areas, the impact of shopping locally is greater for the community.

Shopping locally provides an increase in the local tax base and keeps spending within a community. Additionally, it brings about neighborhood stability by creating jobs for local people, who then reinvest in their community. It is only recently (20-30 years) that some big box stores have made their way into the Bronx and have had a growing impact on jobs and growth. But according to some sources and previous discussions with Prof. Bill Bosworth of the Bronx Data Center at Lehman College, more money leaves the Bronx then comes into it, and this is a contributing factor to the high unemployment and poverty rates.

Think about it, when people are commuting away from their homes and spending money outside of their community, you are helping to build some other community's economy. And there is no incentive for the business that you just spent your hard-earned money on to reinvest in your community, they don't even know where you live. So what happens to the Bronx in this scenario? The divestment leads to empty storefronts, or worse, being inundated with a bunch of "99 Cents Stores" on a block, or a dozen storefront churches, who are the only groups left that can afford the rent, barely open during the week or employing anyone locally. Many other businesses that do survive only do so by a thread, living off of a subsistence business model.

Obviously this does not apply to places such as Fordham Road, which is the largest Business Improvement District in the Bronx, or to other major commercial areas such as Co-op City or the malls popping up along the Major Deegan Expressway. But there are many areas throughout the Bronx where even supermarkets, a staple for any community, have all but disappeared.

So before you commit all your shopping to areas outside of the borough, think about where you can get a great meal at a local restaurant, that customized item in a niche store, or even a discount at a chain store that has set up shop locally. Spend that dollar here, and watch it come back to you in ways you never imagined. Shop the Bronx.

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