Shops need to do more
November 3, 2011
After hearing what can only be called the latest piece of propaganda in the form of a radio ad guilt-tripping Bermudians to spend their money in local shops, I feel compelled to speak out and share my views. I’m tired of some shopkeepers on the island, backed up by Government Ministers, acting as if they have some kind of God-given right to our hard-earned cash. I’m a Bermudian who wants to support the local economy but I am also a believer in consumer choice, and nobody has the right to tell me where to spend my money.
We now have an extortionate 35 percent rate of duty at the airport, but that’s not enough for these shopkeepers. Now they’re calling for higher duty on online purchases that is, purchases not made via their cash registers.
Let’s be clear, not all the money spent in a local shop stays in the local economy. The shop has to buy an item from overseas, just the same as if an individual orders an item online, so much of the money is going overseas in any case. Further, if you save money by shopping online, then the saved money stays in the local economy it stays in your pocket. It’s money that can be spent on local goods and services, eating out at local restaurants, investing in local businesses, donating to local charities, and so on.
For Bermudians to have more money to spend how they please is a great step forward for Bermuda. We should be embracing the selection and low prices that online shopping gives us. Many items simply cannot be bought locally, so why should Bermudians have to pay extra duty for items that local shops do not even carry? Ultimately, do shopkeepers really want to try and force us into their shops by raising duty for their competitors? It’s not a very good idea for creating customer goodwill and certainly doesn’t put me in the mood for a shopping spree!
To be sure, online shopping is giving local shops something they’ve not had to deal with before: real competition. However, we should view this as a positive thing. It helps keep down local prices, and it encourages local shops to offer better selection and customer service.
Realise that online shopping will not be going away any time soon. If local shops really want our business, they will have to get with the times. And perhaps engage in a little market research. Most of us want to ‘Buy Bermuda’ and encourage local retail, but I certainly don’t want to feel as if I have been forced to do so, especially when the local shops don’t really seem to be making the effort. How many of the shops opened on Sundays while the tourist season was in full swing and tourists were ferried over to Hamilton? How many shops truly encourage consumers, have good customer service and are in touch with consumer needs? How many shops offer online services locally? How many shops have “personal shopper” services? Etcetera.
There are so many things shops could do to encourage consumers, yet they feel they must rein us in by penalising us if we choose to spend our money elsewhere. Please heed to the age-old saying that you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.