Time for a new movement!

“Beautiful” and “Fun”.  Those are the two most commonly used adjectives - by customers – when describing our store.  I’m not trying to pat our own backs, here (actually, I am) so much as I’d like to pose a question.  When was the last time you described shopping on Amazon as either of those things?

This week, a customer said the following to me:

If I buy this (50’s dental cabinet, mint condish) my family will tease me unmercifully about why I didn’t just order something from Amazon.  But I tell them, “Because that would be another nail in the coffin of SMALL BUSINESS.” 

Well, first of all, to borrow an old-fashioned phrase, bless her heart.  She did in fact buy the cabinet and combined with another great sale it resulted in a good day for us, which we really needed.

Second of all, HOW do we teach this mindset to a new generation?  I’m not going to bash on the Millennials because they take way too much heat for the current problems of the world and besides, the younger faction of that group doesn’t have any money to spend anywhere.  But, it’s largely people in my generation, those between 40-60, that have given into shopping online because of the “ease”.  When did “ease” become a priority over things like fun and beauty?  With all the yuck in the world, don’t we need fun and beauty in our lives?

Throughout my life, I’ve often been guilty of what I will delicately call “optimistic naivety”.  In other words, my optimistic attitude – which is something I really have to work at because I’m a natural born REALIST – leads me to be naive. 

Before embarking on this journey, again, I was of course privy to the impact of places like Amazon on the retail industry, I mean, who hasn’t heard of or felt the affects of the “retail apocalypse”?  But, my “build it and they will come” and “do what you love and the money will follow” attitudes blinded me to the reality of how drastically things had changed.  This is small business.  And, believe me, I knew what I was signing up for.  But, what I didn’t know - what I was admittedly naive about - is how different consumers had become in my 18-year absence.

Case(s) in point:

·         A customer recently asked me if I have a “locals discount”.

Um, no.  Small businesses need every penny they get and we especially need those pennies from locals.  Tourists come and go but it’s the people that live in your community that keep you alive. And, we don’t overprice things in order to give discounts.  Maybe we should…but we don’t. 

·         Last month, a lady got upset with me for telling her there’s a charge to ship two candles to New York. 

When I bought those candles, they were shipped to me.  I gladly absorbed that shipping expense as the
”cost of doing business”. But, I can in NO WAY afford to incur that expense again because doing so would eliminate my profit.  That profit is how I pay my rent and stay in business.

·         Last, (and saddest of all) of the 20-some people that work upstairs at my Landlord’s office, only 2 of them have ever come in to see what we sell while they’ve collectively received an estimated 10 boxes a week from Amazon throughout the almost-year we’ve been here. 

No explanation necessary.

See, it’s not just that Amazon and the big box giants have changed the industry with their low prices, customer reviews and “free” (Prime is over $100/year) shipping, they’ve changed US.  We now expect these things from Mom and Pop, who can’t possibly deliver them.  Sure, I can create my own version of Prime in which I charge you in advance for a service you may or may not use in its entirety, but I don’t want to.  It’s NOT ETHICAL. 

Nor is it right - in any universe - that Amazon pays no taxes but I won’t get into that.

My point is this: HOW can we get back to the basic notion that shopping, in person, is an experience to be enjoyed?  We’ve all started to take time for self-care, right?  We go to the gym (or at least for a hike).  We get pedicures, manicures, massages and take soaks.  We’ve embraced the SLOW FOOD movement where a meal can take 2-3 hours from seating to completion.  And, isn’t that lovely? 

Perhaps a slow shopping movement is what we need if small business is to survive. 

You’ve heard all the repertoire about the benefits of “shopping small”.  But think about this: we’ve poured our entire lives into making Ampersand Old & New “beautiful” and “fun”.  We work so hard not only to offer UNIQUE merchandise NOT offered on Amazon but to create an experience that will alert your senses, tickle your fancies and make you feel proud that you contributed to us being able to do what we love so much.



Cara Evans