A series of posts considering the options for Christmas shopping (online, retail, local, eccentric) and the impacts of our decisions (financially, socially, preservation-esque). This is post 3 of 4. See considerations #1, #2, #4.
Consideration 3: The Case of Online Shopping
There’s avoiding big box retailers, shopping at locally owned businesses, and the consideration of online shopping. Is this preservation friendly? It depends on how you look at it. Again, I claim no economic expertise, so please correct me where needed.
Last Saturday, I was enjoying a leisurely morning with coffee, sun shining in my windows, and some online shopping. For whatever reason, I can stand online shopping for Christmas anytime in November, but I can’t stand Christmas actually existing in the world before Thanksgiving. My mom happened to call as I’m doing some online shopping to talk to me about her online shopping. We have both increased our online shopping in the past two years or so.
I find it to be a pleasant experience. Generally, I can find anything I want on the internet, google something to find a discount code, comparison shop at the same time, and I avoid the annoyances of in store shopping like long lines, the way too early Christmas music playing, wondering if I’ll find a better deal in the next store, driving in traffic, spending extra money on gas, etc. And I can do all of this from the comfort of my couch with coffee, without the worry of spilling my coffee because I’m holding too many things.
Personal benefits aside, what can online shopping do for preservation?
In considering the environment, it obviously saves gas. Your package will still have to be shipped to you, but it will be shipped in bulk with other items. That delivery truck is going to be out on the roads anyway, but your car not on the roads is helping the environment.
Consumers are able to purchase products from anywhere in the world, such as small, locally owned businesses. That extra revenue can certainly benefit Main Street America. Perhaps the small businesses in small towns will have less risk of going out of business. Or, it could help stores in your own town. For example, every store in my town closes at 5pm, which is when I get home from work. I do not have time to get to the store. Most are only open on Saturdays, which doesn’t always mesh with my schedule. Some of the stores have online stores, which allows me to shop at the store without conforming to their short hours.
But, is online shopping really beneficial to historic preservation?
Where are people shopping online? If it’s still the big box retail stores, is that helping any? It might be, because that could mean less of a need for a physical store. Maybe that gives those acres of trees or that historic street a greater chance of surviving the concrete buildings and parking lot threats.
With general commerce in mind, online shopping’s effect of decreased foot traffic runs the risk of drawing business away from eateries because people aren’t out, about, and hungry. And it takes away from the possibility of “community” because everyone stays at home.
There isn’t an easy answer. Each case can have benefits and drawbacks for historic preservation. I think online shopping can go a long way in helping small businesses reach out to a greater customer base. What we lack for online shopping now is a database of local businesses. It currently takes a few internet searches to find what you need.
For now, the best thing to do is weigh your options, consider what factors are the most important to you, and stick to what you believe is the best for historic preservation and you combined.
Next in the series: gift ideas