Shop at home? Bah, humbug

field-notesI SWORE LAST YEAR I wouldn’t do it. Swore I’d never write another column scolding readers about shopping at home.
Nope. It’s sad, but true…Main Street businesses just aren’t trending that heavily, anymore. I’ve read the studies.

Ten years ago, it was all about big box stores and the Black Friday throngs that flock to them, communing in Thanksgiving night camp-outs by the soft glow of 78-watt LED parking lot security lights, while waiting for the doors to open and make all their Christmas shopping dreams come true.

Mom-and-pop stores across the country closed their doors forever, as a result of the hit they took on the year’s most important retail shopping seasons, but otherwise, the economy was booming.

This year, it’s all about shopping in comfort, swaddled in pajamas and cozy blankets, in the privacy of our own bedrooms, ordering from that megalith of marketing, Amazon.com, by the light of our iPad Pro’s retina display, with its ProMotion technology and 120Hz refresh rate—all while dreams of drones and personalized home delivery to our “smart-locked” front doors dance in our heads.

A few more “going out of business” and “for rent” signs will no doubt appear in the windows of businesses in small towns like this one, but Wall Street is bullish on Apple and Amazon, and life is good.

No, sir. You won’t read one word from me about shopping small, shopping at home, supporting your local merchants. No more. No mas.

Peppermint Tree owner Connie Albin nearly undermined my newfound editorial resolve the other day, when she stopped by our office to pay a bill. “How can we convince more people to shop at home?” she wondered, the frustration evident in her voice. A lump formed in my throat, my typing fingers twitched, and my ire briefly flared, as I bit my editorial tongue.

I’ve shopped with Connie every Christmas for years, knowing that she will offer me thoughtful gift suggestions and hot spiced tea and free gift-wrapping, whether I’m spending $50 or $500. She would probably not even blink if I showed up to shop in my favorite flannel pajamas, either. In fact, flannel pajama bottoms are practically de rigueur at your, uh, “neighborhood” Wal-Mart—which isn’t actually in our neighborhood—where the slogan, “Always Low Prices,” might more aptly be “Come As You Are.”

Still, I’ll never forget watching my mother unwrap each lush, warm sweater or jewel-toned jacket that Connie had suggested she might like, knowing that her eyes would light up as she eagerly donned the new garment, which would last, and be treasured, for years. Mom always knew, not only that the fit would be perfect, but that the color would match several other things in her closet, because it had been selected by her personal shopper at The Peppermint Tree.

But no. I’m not going to let that deter me from my commitment not to badger readers about keeping their dollars circulating locally by shopping at home, just to save a few jobs and to keep a few more downtown storefronts lit up. I’ve learned my lesson.

Sorry, Connie. But save some hot tea for me. I’ll be there soon.

Oh, and hey kids, hate to break it to you, but there is no Santa Claus any more—only Fed Ex and UPS drivers, and those pesky red-nosed drones.

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