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One frequently hears the complaint that Los Alamos has too little retail choice – too few stores, too limited an inventory in the few stores we have and too high prices. The unspoken assumption behind these complaints is that this is the fault of the retailers themselves, or perhaps of the county government. In fact, it is no one’s fault but our own.
It’s not rocket science – it is basic economics. Retail can only survive if there are enough customers and enough sales to cover the costs and pay the bills. Stores can only carry more inventory if there are enough sales to support that much inventory. Prices can only be lower if sales volume is high enough to amortize the business costs over more sales. It is that simple. Statewide, about 44 cents of every dollar spent stays in the community. In our community, only about 11 cents of every dollar spent stays on the Hill. No wonder retail has such a hard time here.
If we want locally-owned businesses like The Coffee Booth, Blue Window, Hill Diner, the Reel Deal theater and Finishing Touch to stay around, we need to patronize them. If we want CB Fox to survive, we need to buy clothes and furniture from them instead of from someplace in Española or Santa Fe. If we want Otowi Books to stay in business, we need to buy our books from them instead of from Amazon.com or Borders in Santa Fe. If we want Metzger’s Hardware to stay in business, we need to look there first for our hardware needs, instead of going directly to Home Depot or Lowes in Española.
Yes, buying locally may sometimes cost a bit more than buying online or from a big box store in Santa Fe. That is the cost of keeping a retail presence in Los Alamos. That is the price of helping your friends and neighbors stay in business in this small town. That is the price of supporting your community.
The LACDC and Chamber, as part of the CommunityMatters initiative, is promoting a consciousness raising effort called the 3/50 Project. The idea is to support our local economy … at least three businesses at a time. The 3/50 name suggests spending $50 a month with each of the three businesses to support them and help to sustain them. Making a conscious effort to support local businesses can pay significant dividends for our community’s economy as well. In our community, $50 in expenditures by 50 percent of the people who work in our community results in $450,000 in revenues, a very significant number. Go to www.fyiLA.com to learn more about this project … and enter the Chamber drawing for three 50s while you are there.
If price is all that matters, then by all means burn the gas to go to Santa Fe, but then don’t complain that there isn’t enough retail in Los Alamos. If on the other hand you really care about retail business in Los Alamos, go spend $50 this month at your three favorite Los Alamos stores or businesses. Then you will be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.
Bill Godwin is a member of the Board of Directors of Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation (LACDC). LACDC’s vision is “Vibrant community through a flourishing economy.” LACDC operates the Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce, Los Alamos MainStreet, the UNM-LA Small Business Development Center, the Los Alamos Research Park, and other community and economic development activities.