What’s In Store

4 05 2010

Call me every bad name in the book, but I just can’t stand it when I feel like I am being guilted into doing something. Even if it means I look like I’m not supporting the local economy.

Today’s Amarillo Globe-News carried a 2-page spread touting the new “Shop Smart. Shop Local.” campaign to try to keep Amarillo shopping dollars neatly and tidily within this silo we call home. The thrust of the campaign is that, if each of us spent 1% of our taxable purchases outside of the area, it would cost Amarillo 6 (yes, SIX) police officers!

Don’t you just love it when people imply our very public safety is at risk because we…gasp…might go shopping elsewhere? Or…gasp again…online?

That’s exactly what they are saying. Then they toss in the old economic saw, that money spent locally returns local salaries for me, you and all of our neighbors. I quote the ad: “But buying goods outside the region or on the Internet means we lose economic power and tax dollars to other communities.”

This may indeed be very true, but since when did economic jingoism ever serve to build an economy the way it should be built?

First of all, let me explain that I teach e-commerce in my Evolutionary Marketing course. E-commerce is not going away. Please don’t tell me that this entire subject matter is fraught with evil simply because you want us to patronize local businesses. Secondly, I must question whether our friendly ralliers have a problem when outsiders patronize local online businesses such as GoHastings.com or WesternHats.com?

That’s what I thought.

Now please don’t misundertake me. I am not opposed to buying from local businesses. And I am not working against our local economy. It’s just that I think we should all be striving to make the most compelling argument for why I…you…everyone else…should spend their dollars here and not online or in Dallas. And what is that argument? Simple. Value. If you can’t provide the best value for our hard-earned money, then don’t be surprised when folks export their shopping dollars.

In case you haven’t noticed, the marketplace has changed. We can no longer live in regional silos. Thomas Friedman buried this wrinkled notion in 2005 with The World Is Flat. From Amarillo to Ankara, the global market is ours.

Instead of emotionalizing the issue, we should be busy building the best possible shops (online and brick-and-mortar) that anyone has ever seen. We should be offering value that none other can match. We should be making ourselves so irresistible that not only locals want to shop here, but outsiders as well.

For therein lies the future to our economic strength. Myopic, incestuous commerce will only serve to isolate us further from the rest of the ever-changing world. We should be tearing down walls, not erecting new ones. I am all too happy to shop locally (and I do for the majority of my purchases, mind you), but make me want to trade with you rather than trying to shame me into it.

Now that’s how you Shop Smart. And it’s the Amarillo I want to see.

Dr “Shop Free Or Die” Gerlich


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One response

5 05 2010
Joshua Ratcliff

Absolutely on target. Don’t hoard the pie, but rather offer a slice to everyone because it tastes great and they cannot get a slice of pie that good anywhere else! Amarillo’s oasis amongst the world creates an innovation / creativity / growth lapse. There is more – offer more. Why can’t Amarillo be mecca to spend and export our products and services? (The disconnect between urban regime politics and true growth will first have to be realized.)

Oh, and offering more does not necessarily mean sacrificing the values and feel that we love about our city.

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