Article Comment 

Voice of the people: Robert E. Smith Sr.




The value of shopping locally 




I learned recently that the Walmart store in Winona is closing its doors, laying off its employees and giving them only a few weeks to deal with the blow of unemployment.  


It caused me to wonder about the reason for such action and what a small town might do to recover from the loss of shopping opportunities and sales tax revenues such a big retailer provides.  


This letter is not written to attack the decision-makers at Walmart's corporate center. Their decision was undoubtedly about money and profit, which is what we should expect from a publicly traded corporation. 


I am not from Winona, and I don't know many of its residents, but there are lessons to be learned from studying the impact of the sudden loss of a major retailer.  


Thankfully for Winona, it has a backup system. There are several thriving businesses there, including a grocery store, other small box retailers, pharmacies, hardware stores, gift shops, and other "Mom and Pop" shops that hopefully will see their businesses improve. But it is not just that simple -- and there is a lesson for us in Columbus to take from Walmart's abrupt departure from Winona. 


In this internet age, it is very tempting to log on to the world-wide web and make purchases from a vendor in another state or country. But it should not be forgotten that such purchasing habits impact even multinational businesses like Walmart. If Internet shopping impacts a giant company like Walmart, imagine what it does to a locally owned store run by a family living right here in Columbus.  


Each dollar spent at independent local businesses returns three times more money to the local economy than one spent at a chain store. Spending at a chain store locally is still better than an Internet purchase. Chain stores employ local people, and sales at such a store generate sales taxes that return to the city.  


On the other hand, an Internet sale does not return any sales tax to the local economy and often such purchases return nothing to the state, which is in desperate need of funds. 


So, while we should all pray for the citizens of Winona to fight the urge to order on-line and to redouble their efforts to make their town better, we need to celebrate our success by putting down the mouse and remembering to shop, sleep and dine locally. Walmart's decision to pull out of Winona should be a shot over the bow and a warning to us all to remember to shop here first and make an Internet or out-of-town purchase a last resort. Failure to follow this advice could hurt us in ways not previously anticipated.  


Robert E. Smith Sr. 


Smith is the Columbus mayor.



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