August was a quiet and relaxing month ~ good for our government and residents, but not our merchants.
They are hoping for a needed robust fall as we all make school and holiday purchases.
Bronxville is not an easy place to open a business and many of our merchants committed to us with their life savings ~ we have less than optimal parking, we don’t have a reputation of supporting local businesses, many landlords are absentee conglomerates and we are near the top in commercial real estate taxes per square foot in Westchester County.
But, in the long run, shopping in the Village is a major bargain far out pacing the short term “big box” bargains.
For every $100 spent in a locally owned independent store, $68 returns to the home community. The same amount spent at a mall or chain store returns $48 “home” and if spent on the Internet, nothing comes back to the town and villages.
To put in a local context, in fiscal year 2007 – 2008, the Village government received $911,718 as our share of the Westchester County sales tax proceeds. Without these funds, Village property taxes would have risen 12% on this one line item alone just to maintain the current level of services and staffing.
In 2010-2011, the sales tax revenue dipped to $838,143 as Internet sales reached a zenith necessitating the Village to trim staff hours and municipal services. Our dip in sales tax revenue mirrors what is happening throughout the nation.
Bottom line, if you shop on-line versus on Pondfield Road or Palmer Avenue, the sales tax savings you reap will eventually come home to roost in the form of higher local property taxes and/or a decrease in municipal services. In contrast, a purchase made in the Village sends money directly back to our school and Village government and sends a message that you are investing in the future of our small village and all that it adds to your quality of life.
Keeping local merchants viable has a multiplier effect as they tend to bank at local banks, use local accountants and architects, computer consultants, insurance agents, advertise in local papers and print with local firms as well as hire our local residents and students.
Nationally, small businesses donate 250% more to local charities than national chains, and in Bronxville, the percentage is even higher. Can you imagine our Church fundraisers, Memorial Day activities, local raffles bring funded by Costco, Amazon and Home Depot?
Many storied New England communities have recognized the long-term value of a distinctive downtown and begun “10% Back Home” programs. The idea is to have 10% of your normal spending to non-local businesses come back to your hometown. For example, if you purchased 20 books on Amazon last year, this year at least 2 should be purchased in one’s local bookstore.
In tandem, these communities have asked residents to think local. Can I buy it in the Village before getting in the car, adding to pollution, congestion and the carbon foot print?
Shopping locally is a chance to take back control, a chance to deal with real people who understand what they are selling because they probably purchased the item. A warm smile and friendly chat are worth something as well. Local shopping also eliminates the ad for the shoes I checked out on line yesterday from traveling with me for weeks on the internet!
If efficiency and cost are all that matter, then the on-line giants and Big Box stores should rule the world. But is this the world we want? Are we more than pure consumers?
The disappearance of local businesses leaves a social and economic void that is palpable and real ~ just look at parts of Pondfield Road ~ even if unmeasured. The quality of life in a community can change in ways that macroeconomics ignores.
By buying locally, residents have a major role in shaping our own community. There is a direct nexus between the vibrancy of our business district and the value of our real estate.
Our downtown is the glue that holds our community together. On Sunday mornings near Lange’s and Park Place Bagels, seniors and strollers connect, new residents meet Village veterans, playdates are made, and rides to sports are organized. ~ Pondfield Road is the ultimate networking site.
Part of the reason that many people are attracted to moving to Bronxville is our distinctive business district.
So vote with your wallet. Keep our home prices high, our Village sustainable and desirable and shop our very attractive stores.
Net net, it is the best long-term bargain around.