As many of you have seen or heard, Arches Book Company recently merged with Back of Beyond Books. The reasons for the move are many, including a poor economy, a stellar county library, decreases in people even reading, increased competition, especially online, and the advent and rise of electronic readers. Ultimately, I take responsibility for the failing of Arches Book Company. But as we went through our second downsizing in 18 months, nagging questions kept appearing.
First and foremost is: Why do Grand County citizens not support locally owned and operated businesses better? The answer I hear most often is price, convenience and availability. I understand that. But the price and convenience argument rarely survives when all factors are brought into the equation.
Most of Moab business’ bricks-and-mortar sales loss is to Grand Junction, Colo. Unless you’re purchasing a very expensive item, the extra cost of gas, not to mention your time, negates any savings.
Then there are online purchases. The convenience of shopping in your jammies sure is nice! But real savings aren’t always there and the time and cost it takes to ship the product results in you receiving your item usually in the same length of time or longer than if you’d ordered it locally. Granted, Moab businesses can’t provide every item you need; then I understand you going elsewhere.
For argument sake, let us say that a product is always cheaper in Colorado or by a click of a mouse and you always receive what you want when you want it. I will argue that price and convenience should not be the only two variables you should consider when deciding where to purchase.
Taxes. Do you like paying taxes? I don’t know about you, but I do, most of the time. Especially local taxes. Moab city relies on sales tax. Your local purchases fund the police, parks and recreation, water and sewer, animal control, and a myriad of other services that I believe to be vital to any community. State sales tax provides other vital services. Does Amazon.com return tax revenues to our community? Does Colorado send us a check from the sales tax collected on the product you bought in GJ? Of course not. Those monies support their services.
Service. I’d rather buy from someone I know and trust. I can’t tell you the number of times a local business person has gone far beyond any reasonable expectation simply because they knew their customer. Try getting the tire service Chip provides in Grand Junction. Or getting office products delivered free, personally, like Kerry does, online. Or the CD arriving a day after ordering like Sgt. Peppers does. I could go on and on. We, as a society, are losing when we buy from faceless giants via computers.
Community. We are fortunate to live in a vibrant community full of great people, activities and events. Who sponsors cultural events? Local businesses. Who helps support fundraisers for locals who need surgery or medical help? Local businesses. Who donates to the Walk for Life, Little League, soccer and other sports, Grand County Search and Rescue, rodeo, Red Rock 4-Wheelers, National Turkey Federation, Seekhaven, Youth Garden Project, Books for Tots, Moab Valley Humane Society, etc. etc.? Local businesses, that is who. Does Zappos or NetFlix or any other online retailer ever donate to a local organization? Of course not.
Employment. Where do the majority of locals work? While government agencies employ large numbers, locally owned businesses hire the majority. With the merging of the two bookstores, I will save $48,100 in salary costs. That is $48,100 less in paychecks for my now ex-employees. Money which will not be spent locally. Local businesses are the engines of our economy. When you buy elsewhere, the engine sputters.
Lastly, I do not understand why Moab city, Grand County, the school district and federal agencies buy so much from vendors outside of Moab? Even if their purchases are tax exempt. Wouldn’t you think they would support local businesses? Especially the city, for whom small businesses collect taxes!
Andy Nettell is the owner and operator of several bookstores in Moab.
ByBy Andy Nettell