The importance of shopping local

Communities up and down the Ohio Valley received bad news in recent weeks with the announcement of several department stores closing.

Kmart is closing sites in Weirton and St. Clairsville, while Macy’s will be shutting down operations in Steubenville, Washington and Monaca.

In all cases, the companies said stores were targeted as part of efforts to eliminate “underperforming” locations.

In other words, these stores weren’t making the revenue the companies felt they should have.

It’s never a good thing to see a business closing, especially one which has provided employment for so many people over such a long period of time.

There are going to be people looking for work where very little currently exists. We don’t know when, or if, these buildings will have new occupants.

At the same time, it can be used as an important lesson, especially in today’s ever-changing world of commerce.

How many of you, during this recent holiday season, actually did your shopping at any local businesses? In other words, did you go to a store, restaurant or other type of establishment in Hancock or Brooke counties in West Virginia, or Jefferson County in Ohio?

For that matter, how many of you actually did your shopping at a physical, brick-and-mortar business of any kind?

I know it’s easier to do shopping online. I’ve done my share of it when I’ve needed to. I also know there are other options in areas such as Wheeling and Pittsburgh.

But we can’t possibly expect to have businesses remain open if we, as local consumers, don’t actually patronize these establishments.

I can’t tell you the number of grand openings I’ve attended over the years, where the business has only been able to remain open for a couple of years.

Most of the time, it is because they don’t get the type of customer traffic they need to survive.

These are often local residents, our own family, friends and neighbors, who are taking a chance to follow a dream and invest in their community. Instead of checking them out, we drive 30 to 40 miles away or log on to the Internet.

A thriving economy relies on a populace initiating regular amounts of commerce in the community.

Businesses continue because people make purchases of their products and services.

With lower customer levels, it becomes difficult to maintain the revenue needed to operate.

I’m willing to bet there are businesses in our local communities, within only a few minutes’ drive from your home, you aren’t even aware exist.

Take a drive around town, talk to people, and read this newspaper. You never know what you might learn about your own backyard establishments.

I can assure you, there is much more than fast food restaurants and video gaming parlors.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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