By Craig Hastings
I heard a news piece on radio News Talk 1400 AM a week ago that has me encouraged about the retail industry business. A day later I heard something similar on Fox News. I’ve become somewhat of a news junkie over the past five or six years. I begin my workday mornings at 7:00 a.m. listening to 1400 AM, Rush Limbaugh for three hours beginning at 11:00 a.m. on the same station, and end my days watching or listening to Fox News. I’ve found these are the best sources for me to stay up on both local and national news events. Of course 1400 will also include some trending national news each day. So what did I hear that has me encouraged about the block and mortar buildings retail sales industry?
It appears there is renewed interest by retail consumers to return to shopping the brick and mortar stores they have abandoned over the past ten years. I certainly hope so and I myself have been trying to do the same. Not because I was ever one to plan a day of store hopping looking for a bargain or because I enjoyed moving about inside a store dodging people and waiting in a checkout line. I’ve been doing about half of my shopping online through Ebay for several years because it’s so dang easy to just sit or lay in bed in my own home and be lazy. And why not; low prices and free shipping right? I’ve changed my mind. It’s not the right thing to do because it’s killing small communities like Tuscola.
How many of us over the age of thirty want to live here with nothing other than residential housing and a few fast food restaurants? I remember a day when Tuscola supported two furniture stores, four grocery stores, three new car dealerships, and two hardware stores. What happened? The internet happened and shopping by fingertip became the norm. These my friends are brick and mortar stores and I want them back. It seems I’m not alone from what I heard from recent news reports. Consumers have begun to miss their time away from home. Consumers are reportedly missing not only being able to touch and compare merchandise but also the social interaction a day or night on the town provided them.
This time of year is when even I want to touch and see what I’m buying especially if I’m shopping for toys. Never would have I shopped exclusively online or by catalog for my sons Christmas gifts. After all, what guy doesn’t want an excuse to browse through the toy aisles of as many stores as possible? Seldom will I pass up a modded-out American muscle miniature car or truck for myself. I’ll buy two and pass the other one off to one of my boys. Speaking of the male consumer; all of you do notice that the lumber yards and farm supply block and mortar stores are still thriving right!? That’s because we never really grow up. What happens is that our toys change…but not entirely. (Remember my toy cars I still buy?) A new drill we don’t need because we have two already or any tool in the plier family should always be purchased if it looks like a deal. All of us have too many screwdrivers. These common tools will always look like a deal, and the tool and basic hardware items are always a must have for us. We can’t do this as easy online. We like to see and touch this stuff.
It’s Saturday and earlier today I was in our local Do It Best store Christmas shopping. How fortunate is Tuscola to have a store of this caliber. If you need a gift for a male this can be your one stop shop if you want. And not just because of the tools and hardware. The winter clothing selection offers the best in the industry and you get to try them on. No sending it back because it didn’t fit. Best of all, all prices are competitive or better than mail order and you know it’s not broken or missing parts. Across the street we have our last new car dealership, Ford of Tuscola. If I’m out for any reason I drive through their inventory. Again, I get to hands on and try on what I’m interested in. I really miss cruising through all three we used to enjoy. I was in Kelsey’s Furniture Store a couple of weeks ago because I wanted a new mattress. Who buys a mattress or any other piece of furniture without trying it out? A mattress is something I surely don’t want to drive out of town to shop nor would I ever order a mattress online! “Well I could send my mattress back after thirty days if I don’t like it,” you say? Ha. You do that if you want but not me because… Did you ever think that maybe the mattress some mail order company sent you was one of those mattresses that somebody else “tried out” for thirty days and sent it back because they didn’t like it? I for one don’t believe for a minute they throw away every mattress that’s returned to them.
Getting out and shopping is an American way of life that has been surrendered too in home finger shopping. Isn’t there room for both? Can’t both industries survive if consumers would share their purchases more evenly? It’s being reported that familiar brick and mortar retail stores that have closed are being reopened not only by demand but also because these retailers are working to make the consumer shopping experience more enticing by including more things of interest to do other than just purchasing merchandise. Rural America needs the jobs that brick and mortar retailers provide. I’ve lived here my whole life and have watched the after school jobs and much needed supplementary income jobs dwindle away to very few. The truth is a person can’t afford to drive out of town for the amount of money these hourly income jobs pay. A person usually will need to get to these jobs quickly after school or immediately after leaving a primary job to their second income job and then home. Down time is needed for rest and not for travel.
I singled out just three of the larger brick and mortar retail stores in Tuscola. This by no means demeans the importance of all of the other retail stores in Tuscola. Tuscola is fortunate to have a thriving and diverse downtown retail community. Storefronts on West Sale Street have always been the historical cornerstone of retail Tuscola. It’s been through the tireless and aggressive efforts of The Tuscola City Councils, two City Administrators, and two Mayors past and present whom I served with for forty years that the Tuscola retail community has survived when so many others have failed. So; put down your phone, tap your computer into it’s sleep mode, put on your shoes, hat and coat, and shop Tuscola on your feet rather than in China with your fingers. I hope you had a Merry Christmas!