There are two words I keep repeating to myself this time of year that make a world of difference to our communities and the St. Lawrence County economy: buy local.
Those words are important every day of the year, but with the Christmas buying frenzy already well underway, they are a little more important these days.
Economic pressures on community businesses have been difficult to bear for the last few years. That pressure got a little more intense recently for town of Oswegatchie car dealerships. A Western New York auto dealership has been coming into town to sell cars for a week or so before heading back home, and the dealerships as a result are asking the town to tighten up restrictions on these types of businesses to protect local merchants.
There is nothing illegal about what this out-of-town dealership is doing. They are a legitimate business which got a proper operating permit from the town. Like any other business, they offer goods for sale and people can choose to buy from them or not.
The townships car dealerships, however, view them as a threat. And rightfully so. Without restrictions on how often traveling sales operations can set up shop, the locals find themselves up against competition that is by no means fair.
The locals have overhead expenses that a traveling operation does not. The locals own properties and pay taxes. They have utility bills. A tent sale doesnt have to pay for heat and lights. The locals have payrolls that cover sales, service and support staff, rather than a handful of gun-for-hire sales representatives working mostly for commission.
The town of Oswegatchie is researching its options because officials recognize that kind of competition is unfair.
People can choose to shop wherever they wish. Thats one of the beautiful things about our society.
But when making that choice, there is more to consider than the lure of a deal.
If we dont think of local merchants first, those local merchants arent in business for long. Then we wake up one day, look around and wonder what happened to all our businesses.
Thats why those two little words I mentioned earlier are so important.
Buying from a local business means the person working behind the counter still has a job, that little Johnny can continue to play on the community youth sports team thanks to that businesss donations, and that your taxes wont skyrocket because the number of property owners contributing to the tax base is holding steady.
Buying local means if you have a problem with what you purchased, you talk to somebody you know about your problem to get it resolved. There is a level of trust we as consumers cultivate with our local businesses. Our merchants work to preserve that trust because they know their success rests on it.
Before you start salivating over that good deal you see advertised by a temporary retailer, a store in another county or an online retailer, ask yourself how good that deal really is, and whether its worth the potential loss of yet another business in our community.
Keep your dollars local and support your towns businesses. Remember how important they are to you, and how important you are to them.