Editorial: Keeping Mom-and-Pops in Mind

Editorial: Keeping Mom-and-Pops in Mind

Lily Bergh stands behind the counter at Little Switzerland Toys & Dolls. Photo by Lina Weingarten

Amazon is not going to go the extra mile and wrap your Christmas presents with professional flair. Amazon is not going to sponsor your local baseball or soccer team. Amazon does not know the names of customers’ family members or shops in the same supermarket that we do.

At the same time, Amazon is still raking in profits. The retail giant moved its annual Prime Day to October this year, essentially setting up an earlier holiday rush than usual. Amazon and other online retailers are anticipated to make $189 billion in revenue this season, up 33% from 2019. Meanwhile many of our local mom-and-pop brick and mortar remain without a hint of additional federal stimulus, praying they do well enough in the next few weeks to stay open in 2021. While Cyber Monday sales are expected to grow this year, American Express, which promotes Small Business Saturday, has reported that in a survey of owners 62% said they need to see spending return to pre-COVID levels to survive 2020.

Though that’s not to say the community isn’t getting involved. Many shop owners we spoke to praised their customers, the ones who have sought out their stores to see how they were doing, buy items or even gift cards.

Some owners managed to take some of their business online during the height of the pandemic in spring, but many did not have the resources  to go further. Over the year, we’ve talked to other small business owners who said the additional stresses caused by the pandemic were simply too much to bear and have already closed up shop.

Yet the beast only grows bigger and hungrier. Amazon is planning for a total of three last-mile warehouses on Long Island, with the latest one announced to be in Shirley.

In the Nov. 26 issue of TBR newspapers, we shared the very real and very legitimate concerns of local pharmacists over Amazon’s new pill delivery service, which is rolling out at the end of this year. Amazon won’t know patients’ family history. Amazon won’t be able to look at a person at their counter and tell if there may be something else wrong healthwise.

All the emphasis on staying at home has led to the ballooning of mail-in delivery services for everything from packages, to food and even alcohol. Some of these delivery businesses, like Door Dash have been a minor boon to brick and mortar who were not allowed to open their doors. Others, such as Amazon Pharmacy, have been taking away larger and larger slices of the economic pie. Will there be a time when your local pharmacy or corner store can no longer compete with a national brand? Maybe, but we’re not there quite yet.

All our local shops were impacted by the ongoing pandemic, and though some industries have managed to compete better than others, the tell-tale signs of anxiety are there in each one. As New York City and Long Island witness increases in COVID-19 infection rates, all eyes are on Albany to see if there will be more restrictions. Experts have already said trends are worrying and have suggested stricter measures.

In that way, we ask people to be considerate not only of business owners but also to your neighbors as well. It may be smart to call ahead before visiting a local shop for a Christmas gift, so as not to spend as much time indoors, potentially with strangers. It’s better to get shopping done early, especially to avoid any kind of gathering crowds on the horizon.

But we have to see the end of 2020, we all crave the end to 2020, but we do not want to see the end to small business on the North Shore and all of Long Island. This holiday season, let’s keep our local mom-and-pops in mind.