Online shopping could kill small communities

Steven Barnum , News editor

Online shopping is convenient and less expensive, but I don’t think it’ll be beneficial in the long run.

I recognize that companies like Amazon offer a lot of positive contributions to our society. The website’s prices are cheaper than you’ll find at physical stores, they have same-day delivery and they make life much easier for the handicapped, elderly and those without easy access to stores. It’s important to look at both the positives and the negatives.

Secondly, I also realize that life is a competition and that it’s natural for bigger corporations to swallow up smaller, family-owned businesses. This happened to my parents’ variety store in the 1990s after Wal-Mart came into town and out-priced them on every item. They found other jobs and moved on, but not everyone is so fortunate. On a much larger scale, the ability to shop online is killing jobs that we can’t replace.

In many cases, job stability depends on location. In Macomb, many people relied on places like JCPenney and K-Mart for work, which are now gone. Even Western Illinois University made cuts recently, which shows the risk that people take when working here. Another town in close proximity, Monmouth, will lose Shopko and Family Dollar. In rural areas with opportunity that is already limited, it’s critical to maintain what is there.

Not to just pick on Amazon, but I do think that they’re the main reason why brick and mortar is disappearing. Jeff Bezos is an innovator and it’s hard to criticize someone so successful, but the amount of jobs he displaces compared to the amount he offers through his company is not enough.

Then there’s the tax money that towns are not receiving with the increase in online shopping. Smaller communities like Macomb and Monmouth will likely experience the worst of this trend. The mayor of Macomb recently said that the way people are shopping in America now is partially why more and more towns will not have the money to repair roads or pay their employees.

I’m guilty of shopping online at times, but I still try to support local and physical businesses as much as I can. I would encourage everyone who has the opportunity to do the same before we lose too many jobs to computers. Sure, some items are significantly cheaper to buy online and others we can’t find in stores, but we should consider the potential damage of no longer supporting local businesses.

I don’t know what the best solutions are, but with the impact on the economy that online shopping will create, I think that local towns will have to ask the government for help. I don’t advocate for a world without the Internet or Amazon because we should strive for convenience and competition; however, I’d like to see everyone find a healthy middle ground where they can both save money online with certain items while also contributing money to their community.