2000-03-29 / Editorials


Shopping Locally Is Logical

For nearly a month now, New Yorkers have been reaping the benefits of the elimination of the city and state sales tax on shoes and clothing with a total cost of less than $110. By now it should be evident that those Queens residents who shop within the borough are saving more than the 8.25 percent formerly added to the tab when they shopped for clothes.

Buying locally on local shopping streets such as Steinway Street in Astoria, Austin Street in Forest Hills or Main Street in Flushing saves gas and tolls. For shoppers who prefer the consistency of nationally known merchandise, all these shopping locales feature stores with branches from coast to coast. Local merchants who own the stores they operate often carry unique merchandising lines which suit a particular shopper's needs better than any national brand. Both national brands and local specialties are available right here in the borough.

Shopping at local stores in one's own neighborhood carries a further advantage in that in many cases, even the national franchises have little turnover in sales staff. It is possible to walk into a store in one's neighborhood, even a branch of a nationwide chain, and be greeted by a salesperson who knows the shopper's size, preferences and, frequently, price range. Because local merchants value their customers and want them to come back, service is frequently more individualized and attentive than at shopping venues across state or county lines where sales staff expect never again in their lifetimes to see a customer likely to buy from them only once. Senior citizens are also likely to shop locally and are a welcome addition to a shopping district, bringing a steadying influence and often assisting younger shoppers through a lifetime of experience in getting the most for their money.

Buying though catalogues, or over the Internet, does not really save money. While tax laws mandate that sales tax on catalogue merchandise cannot be charged if shipped to a customer living in a state where the catalogue merchandiser does not have a retail store, shipping charges more than make up the difference in many cases. Since everything shipped in to the New York City area arrives by some form of petroleum-fueled transportation, with the current oil shortage, shipping costs have been rising steadily, and many catalogue merchants have been passing these charges on to the people who order from them. Shopping locally means lower prices and no shipping charges. Besides, as a department store once told its patrons, the packages you carry get home first.

Putting money back onto one's community also contributes to the civic good. Well-used shopping streets are well kept. Merchants seeking to attract business keep their sidewalks swept and their windows washed. They join chambers of commerce, business improvement districts or local development corporations, all of which strengthen an area and help it grow.

We are now in the season of income tax refunds. May we suggest that using a windfall from the state or federal government to make local purchases is simply logical? Shopping close to home just makes good economic sense. Forget about Nassau County or New Jersey–save time and money and just shop locally.

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