Shop Local Athens
During difficult times, it is important to cherish and uplift local businesses in Athens who have continuously supported the community. The Athens Chamber of Commerce recognizes the significant impact that local businesses bring to the community, and we want to aid in further fostering the development of part of what makes the Athens Community great, local businesses. We will provide the initiative to showcase the need to shop local this holiday season and into the future.
Op-ed from David Bradley, CEO
Running a small business effectively is no easy task. Most independent business owners have plowed their life savings and dreams into their passion. They have forced themselves to become the jack of all trades in their work. Even still, the rate of success is tantalizingly small. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics note that only 50% of businesses will make it five years. The success rate for retail and dining establishments is even worse. Yet, small businesses employ 64.7% of our workforce as noted by the SBA. These are pretty powerful statistics and, frankly, could be the kickoff verbiage on a solid Shop Local campaign just about any given year. We all know that 2020 has been no ordinary year. This, too, is no ordinary plea for folks to think local first. The Chamber, in conjunction with many of our local partners, are asking all who will listen to SHOP LOCAL ATHENS. Allow me to provide some powerful reasons to shop local anytime, then follow up with why THIS year it is more important than ever.
1) Shopping local is the most important thing any one person can do to support the local economy. Athens merchants rely heavily on the traffic generated by the University of Georgia. The hospitality industry, a very significant employment sector, relies heavily on sporting events, graduations, visiting parents, and friends. As students were homebound from March to August, the lifeblood of the retail, restaurant, venue, and lodging sectors vanished. Sales volumes are at a fraction of what business owners would typically expect. Many are literally holding on hoping for a good holiday season. To provide intentional support for these business sectors TRULY is the most important thing any of can do this year.
2) More of your money will be kept locally. The general rule of thumb is that if you spend $100 with a local merchant, $68 will be kept local. If you spend that same $100 with a big box, we don’t lose out but the percentage of that money staying local might fall to as low as $43. If we purchase something online ..... well, I think you know how much of that $100 stays local. Through pandemic and economic fears, the National Retail Federation has noted that expected spending during the holidays will DECREASE slightly in 2020. Unless we change our spending habits, the losers in this decline will be local merchants.
3) You help maintain and expand local jobs. As noted above, nearly 65% of our employment base works with a small business. I sometimes get burdened when I think someone is trying to “shame” me into doing something. The more we patronize our local businesses, particularly in the distressed sectors, the more jobs we save - pretty simple! This year without a strong holiday shopping season - at least slightly better than in years before - it is quite possible we will lose many local businesses and therefore experience greater unemployment.
4) Shopping locally helps sustain the unique culture of your community. We love Athens and we love others loving Athens. We have a dynamic business culture unlike many others in the country. Extraordinary music, incredible restaurants, creative artistry engagement, super bars/breweries – we’ve got that mythical “it” factor. This is not something Athens was born with but rather cultivated over time. We have refined it and continued to expand its vibrancy. By focusing our spending efforts with Shop Local Athens, we can at least do a small part in making sure our unique and glorious “it”ness continues.We urge you to think every day as to how and where you are buying anything. Is it possible to avoid online purchasing? We do have a direct responsibility for keeping and expanding the local quality of life but we must stake our claim to the economic sustainability of this place we proudly call “home."
This holiday season, shop local. Your ATH depends on it.
Athens Economy Update
This year, the local economy has struggled with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hear from David Bradley, CEO of the Athens Chamber of Commerce, on how local businesses are coping with the new reality of our economy, and what we can expect as we transition into the upcoming winter months.