Shopping Local Makes Big Community Impact

24 Nov 2015

Holdrege voters made the future look brighter on Nov. 10 by overwhelmingly voting yes in a mail-in ballot election to renew the city’s half-cent sales tax for economic development.


Voters approved the tax by 83 percent (1,363 votes in favor and only 278 against), and it is expected to generate $8.1 million between 2017 and 2032 if local businesses can continue to generate the same amount or more in sales through attracting local shoppers and out-of-town customers.


Paul Wagner, owner of Bob & Norm’s Quality Flooring, said he urges residents to at least “give us a shot” when it comes to shopping local.


“I just want people to be educated and informed on pricing,” Wagner said. “You are not always getting a better deal by going to the bigger town.”


He said his flooring store can match prices of the larger box stores, and shopping local can include benefits in better customer service and service after the sale.


“When you one-stop shop here, we will stand behind our product,” he said.


Plus, shopping local has the further benefits of boosting the local economy.


“It will keep our tax dollars here,” he said. “It’s awesome all the great things happening with this tax money in our community,” he said referring to local tax dollars being used to enhance local businesses and the downtown area.


According to a “Retail Market Place Profile”  compiled by the ESRI research firm, Phelps County businesses are drawing additional customers in to shop for vehicles, auto parts, furniture, lawn and garden supplies, gasoline, jewelry and second-hand merchandise.  However, the report shows some “leakage,”  indicating that residents are choosing to spend with vendors outside of Phelps County for electronics and appliances, groceries, building materials, clothing, shoes, books, music and office supplies.


The ESRI report shows that local businesses are attracting approximately $17.2 million of purchases from customers who do not reside in Phelps County. Conversely, residents are spending more than $52.8 million with vendors outside the county.


PCDC Executive Director Monica Boyken said local businesses or entrepreneurs can cash in on that lost opportunity by choosing their products wisely, regularly promoting their products and providing customer service that exceeds expectations.


“Capturing that lost market share is good for the economy,” she said. “If even half of the “leaked” sales return to Phelps County and are taxable, the LB840 fund could grow by more than $100,000 each year.”


The report is based on the number of residents in a geographical area and the expected potential purchases made by the average individual.


While the report is not perfect, Boyken said it does provide some guidance. For example, the report shows a potential demand for $700,000 in shoe purchases in the county each year, but it does not necessarily mean a stand-alone business would be profitable locally. More research would be needed.


“But, the ESRI report should get retailers thinking,” Boyken said. “Retailers could test an additional product line or run more advertising about the shoes in stock. One of the cool things about this report is that businesses can be thinking of ways to diversify their businesses.”


For a copy of the report, please click here.