For much of the year, retailers braced for the impact of tariffs and watched as online competitors continued to gain market share. The ratings firm Moody’s recently slashed its estimate for the retail industry’s performance.
In Kansas City, a shopping mall might be turned into an ice rink. Closer to home, empty big-box stores give a bleak impression on some major St. Joseph streets.
But if Mark Twain were still alive, the Missourian might quip that the death of bricks-and-mortar retail is greatly exaggerated.
The National Retail Federation projects $727 billion in sales this Christmas shopping season, a 4 percent increase from last year. That amounts to $1,047 for the average consumer.
Not all of that will come through website clicks. Bricks-and-mortar retailers remain vital to the St. Joseph economy, with chains and locally owned stores located all over town. Sales at these stores provide a livelihood to a local workforce and revenue to local government and taxing districts. In fact, shopping at an actual shop can prove to be a communal experience, countering some of the isolating effects of a life lived online.
The St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce seems to have started its Shop St. Joseph program in another era, before so many purchases and transactions took place on the small screen. The relevance of this program endures as the economic-development organization kicks off its annual campaign this year. Once again, it gives shoppers a chance to win $10,000 or a variety of second-chance prizes from more than 120 participating businesses.
The contest successfully plays upon self-interest, in a sense. Shoppers have a chance to win money, and businesses have a chance to collect more of the retail spending that could otherwise go to Kansas City or Jeff Bezos.
We encourage those who visit participating stores, restaurants and businesses to take advantage of this program but to also keep in mind the bigger picture for retail. After the merriment of the fourth quarter comes the reckoning in the first, with companies reporting financial results based off numbers from October through November. It is no surprise that most store-closing announcements come after the first of the year.
St. Joseph residents might feel like all they can do is put a finger in the dike of wider trends in technology and consumer preferences. Maybe they’re right, but Shop St. Joseph still provides a chance to make a small impact by supporting local businesses.
Twain also said the secret to getting ahead is getting started. St. Joseph-area consumers shouldn’t put off a chance to participate in Shop St. Joseph this year.