Why in-person shopping is best

November 28, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Acquiring premises is a leap of faith. Well, if it just means moving into rental space with only your socks and a toothbrush, that might not be a heavy deal, but most of us wants more than a bridge or a cardboard box over our heads, so even renting on any level costs rent; further along, could be a mortgage; you are going to incur responsibilities like telephone and hydro bills. You might have very little to demand of that home beyond warmth on a wintery night, placid entertainment, a glass for that toothbrush by the sink. Or it might be a palace.

What about the greater risk and longer leap of the premises of a restaurant or a shop. Here in Orangeville, there are many shops and restaurants that are valuable for more than simply what they offer by way of nourishment, goods and services. Their value lies as well in their being there as part of where we live. Their presence enriches the whole town and not just the quaint strip of Broadway but here and there, in many places of Orangeville, are independent shops and eateries and this town would be much poorer without them.

Yet, our town council has, over the years, welcomed in the likes of Walmart, with the worst reputation in the world for its business practices, its brutal financial abuse of its suppliers and staff; the poor quality of the products and its penchant for undercutting downtown shops and, in some small towns, shutting the centre of towns down.

As if a place to just get together spontaneously were not important, an open spot with a few tables, to which one might bring a coffee or a snack that the local supermarket sells, to sit indoors with friends and acquaintances, by regular chance, somewhere to go and get out of the house, when the days of employment are over…

This was the Orangeville Mall, a well frequented spot of other useful and small shops, a jeweller, baggage shop, a dentist, a leather repair chap, been there for more than 30 years, a man’s barber shop, a Tip Top Tailor, that space was paid for by the rent of the businesses. Santa used to get his picture taken with all the kids and some old folks too.

Now, it’s gone.

Dear Orangeville, bigger is not better, not actually progress. 

Marshalls, a Winners (Canadian-owned) style, American cut price chain store, is moving into what was Orangeville Mall and the overall reconfiguration of the mall does not include indoor anything but shopping. No tables and chairs for coffee, chat or do the crossword. No safe warm window shopping – no casual meet-ups. Where will people do that now?

I know we have fine coffee shops in town and there are regular gatherings of friends in them; I appreciate so much that they are there but they don’t fill the gap for those who frequented the Orangeville Mall. 

Independent merchants are not bound by head office’s policy; they place their own orders; they decide on their own ambience; they design their own menus. 

Currently, there are two aspects of the way too many people shop that is eroding the chances of survival for our local independent shops: primarily American-owned box stores and online shopping.

There is a long list of why not to shop online and the only reason people do so is because of the seemingly cheap and easy aspect of it. However, let it be said here, that, while online shopping is contributing to the increasing decline of independent, brick and mortar stores, the financial giants of this weirder-by-the-moment world, get richer with every order you make: Google and Amazon.

Let me promote in-person shopping for all its worth. Let’s begin with Heather Katz and Michael Griffin’s shop, Broadway Music.

When we chatted to Ms. Katz this week about her Christmas recital, she continued the conversation by talking about online shopping for musicians: “Stop shopping online,” she declared. “If you buy something like a guitar online; if you have to return it, the warranty’s not covered. People think they’re saving money but buying from the States, with the exchange and the shipping, it’s just as much. They’d do better buying their guitar at a local music shop, like ours, with good warranties and free set up.”

The personal touch, the interesting, could be amusing, informative experience of in-person shopping makes up for the idea of getting off your chair and going out.

Can you imagine how “downtown” Orangeville could look without the shops that currently do business there? If they decline and close, what will replace them? They keep those heritage buildings alive. If they close, will Council be pressed and capitulate to permitting new construction of condos, many of which, left vacant,ß will join the Airbnb clan, change the face of the town for the worst, forever.

Get out and shop in-person. It’s fun; you’ll find interesting people, interesting things.

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