I remember when there was a J.C. Penney store in Sheldon, Rock Rapids and Sibley. And three busy department stores in Sheldon.
Shopping local was a major part of life in the mid-20th Century. Shopping night in town gave locals and area farmers the opportunity to shop for anything from a school prom dress to a farm plow. Families would park their car along Main Street early in the afternoon, leave it there and return home in their trailing pickup. That made it possible for families to sit in their cars and call out to those they expected to see.
Shopping local was an important part of creating a community. The larger a retail district the better the town. A solid shopping area made it possible for a town to attract more families, to finance and provide additional leadership for local events and celebrations and to assure greater support for community school, church and service organization functions.
But local businesses have experienced a number of heavy hits the last few decades. First came the distant lure of the big-city shopping centers offering an abundance of brand-name stores in a weather-controlled building. Next came the giant box stores offering enormous selections and big savings in one monstrous building.
But even the shopping centers are suffering today, searching for ways to be vital and exciting if they want to stay in business. Many are becoming more entertainment centers than shopping centers. Box stores, too, like Toys “R” Us, are closing more rapidly than they were once opening. Why? Because it is so convenient to shop on the internet.
Internet shopping sounded so cool when it was first introduced. It made it possible to purchase a knickknack Christmas gift from the Smithsonian, for example, without traveling to Washington, D.C. My now deceased sister-in-law found interesting gifts for everyone every Christmas that way.
But today there are many who order everything from books to groceries to furniture online without ever giving the local retailers a thought. That might be quick and easy for the buyer, but it promises a dim future for the community they call home.
When local businesses don’t do business, they close. There are many small communities across N’West Iowa that once had grocery stores but don’t even have a local place to buy a quart of milk today.
But losing the convenience of buying a pair of socks, new winter coat, bedding or bouquet of flowers nearby is only part of the problem. Money spent out of town, in big-city markets or on the internet, does nothing for economic growth in their hometown or region.
National marketing experts tell us as much as 48 percent of all dollars spent with hometown dependent businesses are recirculated through the community as often as three times.
That compares with zero percent of dollars spent with an online retailer.
If every family would shift just 10 percent of their purchases to a locally owned business it would, over time, result in hundreds of additional jobs across N’West Iowa and unknown additional dollars in new and increased wages.
The N’West Iowa REVIEW, and our family-owned parent company, Iowa Information Publishers and Printers, is committed to buying local. And not just because local businesses are necessary for a company such as ours that is financially dependent on selling advertising. We also recognize a solid and varied business district is necessary if we want to recruit and retain good employees.
We understand that local sales and property taxes are necessary for the support of parks and schools, maintaining the streets, city water and sanitation systems and to provide police and fire protection services.
Finally, we recognize the role local businesses play through their donations to schools, youth leagues, FFA and 4-H groups, churches and service club projects and events.
Over the next few months The REVIEW plans to publish a winter series of special sections in Accent sharing the importance of shopping LOCAL and regional.
Each section will provide information regarding the many creative and various ways each N’West Iowa community is traditional and unique shopping to their local citizens and the surrounding area.
Shopping local doesn’t mean only buying in your neighborhood or town but buying as close to home as possible to keep our unique area vibrant and complete.
Peter W. Wagner lives in Sibley. He is the founder/publisher of The N’West Iowa REVIEW and may be reached at email@example.com.