Operating a small business in San Francisco –particularly a neighborhood retail business– is very challenging. Rental costs are soaring and good long-term lease terms are hard to secure. Buildings can change hands and new property owners may not sympathize with the slim profit margins of their small business tenants. Landlords may keep storefronts empty, waiting for retailers who can pay more. There is also constant competition from online retailers and national chains, as well as increased street parking restrictions that may make it difficult to attract customers.
Recently, S.F. Mayor London Breed signed legislation to streamline the permitting process for small business owners and allow retailers to diversify their offerings in an effort to combat retail vacancies. Policies and regulations that support small businesses are vitally important. At the same time, we can take action at the individual level by committing our dollars locally to help keep small, independent business retailers in our city.
Most of us are guilty of price shopping. We take a stroll through a neighborhood, enjoying the warmth and friendliness of the small commercial environment. We like to window shop and admire the products on display and attend local merchants’ special events. Then we go home and order from Amazon or another online retailer so we can save a little money and have items delivered to our doorstep the next day. But there are costs to these purchase choices — both to independently-owned small businesses in our area and to the workers in the online retail warehouses. (Listen to Amazon: Behind the Smiles from The Center of Investigative Reporting’s Reveal podcast.)
Supporting local retailers may take extra effort and it sometimes means paying a little more. But when we shop locally, we create a positive ripple effect. Each dollar that is spent with a local business has a multiplier effect as it recirculates within the community. These businesses make our city a vibrant place not just to shop but to live.
We have been fortunate to work with and teach hundreds of small business owners in the San Francisco Bay Area. These entrepreneurs turn their passions into enterprises that are important both to our local economy and the character of our city. Join us in a Shop Local challenge by supporting only small businesses when you shop this holiday season!