The following is a letter I came across from Steve Presser, who owns Big Fun, a fabulous, independent vintage toy store in Cleveland Heights:
I hope this message finds you and your family in good health. We all cannot avoid the constant barrage of the negative news about the economy. It's in the newspapers, magazines and radio. It's reality - we've been in a full-blown recession for over a year.
Sadly, most of the retail doom and gloom has been focused on the Big Box retailers. Their numbers are down, but those pale in comparison to the hurt this down economy has put on small independent stores. I've talked to many businesses across the board and nearly all are experiencing a very serious downturn thus far this holiday season. In some cases, we're talking 40+ percent decreases in sales from last year (which, by the way, for most was a down year from the previous year, 2006). For these independent stores, the holiday season represents 25% of their annual sales - the holiday season is a "make it or break it" scenario. Compound this with increasing cost of goods, skyrocketing utility rates, rent hikes, taxes and well... you don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out the negative consequences.
So why am I sending this email? It is more than a gentle, subliminal reminder... It's a plea! SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL INDEPENDENT RETAILER THIS HOLIDAY SEASON. I fear many will not survive the winter. We talk about where we live and why we choose certain neighborhoods. We talk about what we value and sometimes we don't put a price on what it means to us. What about customer service? What about product knowledge? I could go on...
Remember that it is many of your local merchants who donate to or sponsor events with organizations that you are familiar with. Studies show a large percentage of dollars stay in a community when you BUY LOCAL vs. leaving the state with an online or big box purchase. Sadly, if a local store closes, it not only becomes an empty storefront (in this economy, they're not lining up to rent spaces) but the trickle down from this loss affects many - the local accountant, lawyer, insurance broker and printer to name a few. So you really know many who are or would be affected by the closing of a local "Mom and Pop".
So, PLEASE during this holiday season . . . try to spread the "Good Gospel" . . . support your local bookstore, record shop, boutique, hardware store, coffee shop, and toy store. Shop at the galleries and support local artists. Go out and support the small music clubs that hire local musicians. Eat at independent restaurants. Put the word out on the street. Forward this email. Tell your neighbors, friends and coworkers. Teach your kids about the importance of supporting local businesses. It's all about education and awareness. Buy multiple gift certificates in small amounts to give away this holiday season . . .