The Vultures Swoop In

Josie Leavitt -- January 20th, 2012

The store next door to my bookstore is closing. They sell eco-friendly products and composting supplies. Home Ecology: Your Green General Store has been open less than two years. And it saddens me that they are closing. But what really disturbs me isn’t that they’re closing, it’s that some folks are just now shopping there.

Our customers here in Vermont have surely embraced the Shop Local credo for the bookstore. They are making a point to let us know that they are deliberately choosing to shop with us and not with a chain or Amazon. But Home Ecology, a store with more diverse competition, has had a harder time defining the enemy around whom potential customers can rally, and this has been part of the problem for them.

The other thing they seem to be missing is support. The book industry has done a really good job getting the word out about why every local bookstore needs your business. Between the ABA, all the regional trade organizations, and all the work the indies do themselves, the message seems to be getting through. I don’t know much about other retail organizations, but it seemed to me that Home Ecology had no help from a trade group. This made me all the more appreciative for the resources, talking points, etc., that I have at my disposal.

Every day I’ve seen the parking lot full of cars who have come to buy fixtures and stock, all at steeply discounted prices. These are the same people who’ve never set in foot in the store. I spent some time in Home Ecology the other day and watched as folks amassed large piles of goods and someone asked if a display case could be broken down immediately and taken away that day. I felt awful. I was happy for them that they were moving the inventory, but the predatory nature of the folks made me mad. If only some of these customers had thought to buy a compost bin or a set of glasses in November, perhaps the store wouldn’t be closing. I know I’m oversimplifying, but the difference between failure and success is the  number of people through the door buying things.

And now that word is officially out around town that Home Ecology is closing, I’ve heard more folks say they wished they’d gone there. I try not to bang my head against the wall when I hear that. This seems to be a cautionary tale for all people, me included. If there’s a store in your town you’ve always wanted to visit, well, make 2012 the year you go. It’s really simple: if you don’t go to your local store, whether it’s a bookstore, record store, shoe store or restaurant, it might not be there when you finally decide you want to.

Full of conviction, I’ve started a list of places I intend to patronize before June. There are restaurants I’ve been meaning to visit, shops I haven’t been to in a long time, dog toys I should buy locally. The list is long, but I’m galvanized. I need to do my part to help my fellow merchants. Plus, it’s actually really fun.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *