Ordinary consumers can resolve big-box issue
Our current big box/chain store conversation will not be resolved by a committee but by demand-side market capitalists: i.e., ordinary consumers.
In that regard, the "Shop Sonoma" campaign will need to be re-tooled. As is, it essentially asks consumers to be stupid with their money.
Businesses that promote Shop Sonoma would recoil in horror if they were told to deliberately increase their costs by making purchases of inventory at higher prices than they could get it for elsewhere, just to help a local business. Why, that's "socialism," right? Fact: Even the businesses promoting "Shop Sonoma" don't Shop Sonoma if price is an issue. Yet that's what Shop Sonoma asks Sonomans to do.
While many things influence individual purchases, price is where the conversation starts, particularly when products and services are widely-available commodities, indistinguishable but for the packaging and the hype. In a globally sourced economy, everything - from soap to food to religion to sex - is a commodity.
When it comes to personal products and services, like hair cuts, spa treatments or matching a mood with ambiance at a local restaurant, the higher-priced purveyor sometimes gains an edge over the low-priced offering. But not often, especially when money is scarce, and especially not for anything sourced cheaply from China, which is just about everything sold in America.
While we like to think Sonoma is special - and in some ways it is - it is an inseparable part of the chaotic carnival midway that is global capitalism. On that midway, local merchants who can't compete on price need to offer something rare, unique or special - a two-for-one sale, a two-headed goat, a sane Republican or a talking chicken - anything unusual to lure bargain-driven customers into their tent.
Ironically, those who cheer the cost-saving virtues of outsourcing and rail against wasteful "socialist" spending are finally being heard. Regardless of their politics, Sonomans are voting with their scarce dollars to maximize their household "profits." Every day these newly-awakened capitalists vote at big-boxes in Napa, and online where merchants offer 24/7 shopping from home, unlimited selection, competitive prices and the convenient gas-saving door-to-door delivery from the one big box that everyone loves: the UPS truck.
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Bob Edwards invests some of his scarce dollars on dogs Sonoma.