Look local first before looking online

Wrangell’s sales tax revenues from online commerce continue to climb as more residents shop for more things online, and as more sellers follow the law and collect sales tax and send the money to the borough.

As much as that’s good news for the municipal treasury, it’s not particularly good news for local business owners and their employees, and it’s not a good indicator for the long-term economic future of the community.

No doubt there are a lot of things that people want and need to buy which are not available in town. And no doubt much of what they buy online is less expensive that what they can find on Front Street or around the corners, though rising shipping costs charged by many e-commerce sites may be changing the math for some shoppers.

But online merchants don’t help out the community with donations for school sports teams, the Fourth of July celebration and other fundraisers. Their employees don’t volunteer around town, don’t participate in the community theater, holiday chorale or annual cleanup.

Simply put, the cheapest price online comes at a price to the community.

Wrangell’s retail shops don’t stock every toner cartridge someone may need, or every brand of the latest organic vitamins and food supplements trending on social media, or that special kitchen utensil needed for an unusual recipe. But the stores do carry a lot — it’s just a matter of giving them a look before clicking a mouse or a “Buy Now” button on a phone.

Take a short walk around town — the retail shops are only a few blocks apart. Look to see what they have in stock and what they could order. Consider how quickly you need it and whether buying in town works for you.

And while you are deciding, remember the benefits that local merchants provide the town. The owners and employees provide more than a retail service — they are in the business of community service too. Give them a look next time you think about filling your online cart.

— Wrangell Sentinel


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