Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Shopping Main Street-Small Business Saturday

Even I wanted to go shop on Black Friday, because of a deal at Old Navy involving a free camera. But since everyone else will want the same deal and I hate crowds, I blew it off.

Most attempts by small businesses and commercial districts to compete against the chain stores and their super-duper deals fail. It's just too hard to compete, e.g., the deal I wanted at Old Navy was to get a free Kodak camera worth about $80 at retail, when you buy $40 of merchandise.

The Washington Post story, "New research reveals the reasons we shop on Black Friday," has some disturbing discussion about what makes us buy so much junk, when stores want us to do so:

1. Crowds make us happy
2. Those who plan, push
3. We love the hunt
4. It's about togetherness

that our rituals and sense of togetherness has been commodified.

And if that isn't enough, traditional shopping centers are being made over along "traditional commercial district" lines ("lifestyle centers"). See "Main Street replacing the shopping mall" from the Washington Post.

The American Express-initiated "Small Business Saturday" is a good counter to "Black Friday" and its hyper chain focus.

Small Business Saturday is an attempt to focus consumers on shopping at locally owned businesses and in traditional commercial districts.
It's smart positioning, rather than going head to head in a contest you'll lose, position and focus for another day. And American Express does advertising and provides marketing materials that independent businesses can use.

Last week, USA Today had a couple nice stories on shopping local, "Gift buyers like local shops' options" and "Local gift shopping has perks, minuses."

Shopping local matters. Local businesses spend more money in the community than chain stores. And they are typically tenants in local (neighborhood) commercial districts, in locations that chains aren't normally interested in.
Magic Carpet, Takoma Park
So this holiday season, make the time and take the effort to shop and purchase at local stores, in local commercial districts.
State Street, Media, PA
These days, the drop in consumer spending is crushing retail businesses, large and small, especially in the music and book retail sectors (e.g., "Plan 9 Music files for bankruptcy" from the Richmond Times-Dispatch).

But independent businesses have access to fewer resources and therefore our purchases make a bigger impact there.
Graffiti in Carytown, Richmond
Top photo: Takoma Park, Maryland. Middle photo: State Street, Media, Pennsylvania. Bottom photo: Carytown, Richmond, Virginia.

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