Letter: Doorbells, and sleigh bells, and isn’t schnitzel bad for my cholesterol?
Tiz the season to be jolly! So, what’s holding up the holiday spirit? It could be because the jobless rate is the highest in 35 years.
It might be due to the fact that after convincing Americans that they have to invest in their own retirement, our financial geniuses on Wall Street and in the credit industry have created a worldwide crisis, causing most of us to lose half of that retirement savings. It might be that non-profits and public schools are in crisis: donations are down by 2/3, public funding is all but gone, and many of them invested bond and other monies in institutions that are gone forever, leaving them with a public debt of millions of dollars each.
It could be because experts are predicting the most dismal retail holiday sales in decades.
The crisis in the retail market has hit Main Street much harder than it has hit big box vendors. Small business owners have little cushion, funding their small shops on their own savings. Because small businesses don’t have the buying power, their margins are thinner than big box stores when they compete on price. In the retail clothing industry alone, comprising 190,000 businesses nationwide, there are 30 times more small businesses (under $1M in sales) than there are businesses of greater size.
According to the Fed, a recession is already under way in the United States. The GDP tanked another 0.5% in the third quarter of ‘08, and the Fed predicts this trend will continue (or increase) during at least the first 6 months of 2009.
This hits small retailers right where it hurts, and puts at risk all of our futures. According to the Small Business Administration, businesses with less than 500 employees account for almost half of private-sector employment. Small businesses employ our youth and our part time workers. A recent National Federation of Independent Business survey showed 15% of small business owners anticipate layoffs in 2009, which will put even more strain on an already weak U.S. labor market.
I always try to find that half-full cup. A warm Christmas can be had without many presents, but with conversation, Scrabble and card games. A bowl of savory soup is just as good as a prime rib, given the right weather and company. Holiday parties can, and should, be potluck. And shopping locally, from the retailers in my neighborhood, helps too.
When you support a locally owned business, you give back to the community in which you live, learn and play. Three times as much money stays in your community when you shop in a local business rather than a chain.
Your local business owners give freely to the community, sponsoring teams, giving to non-profits, and hosting downtown events.
When you shop locally, you don’t pay shipping costs, you get to talk to a friendly person who lives near you, and the money you spend stays in your neighborhood. Just as you invest to care for your home, spending locally helps you care for your community.
My half full cup is our own capability to save small businesses, jobs and our local economic vitality. I believe that we can do it, working together. Let’s start a movement!
Terri Schoenrock Reece