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Pleasantville Mayor: A Cautionary Tale to Galvanize Local Shopping

In his latest column, Pleasantville Mayor Peter Scherer calls the closing of a beloved local toy store a cautionary tale and urges shoppers to buy locally, and not online, when possible.
In his latest column, Pleasantville Mayor Peter Scherer calls the closing of a beloved local toy store a cautionary tale and urges shoppers to buy locally, and not online, when possible. Photo Credit: Robert Michelin

PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y. -- Mayor Peter Scherer writes a column that is republished by the Daily Voice.

This past week, local customers and friends received a letter from the Try & Buy Toy Store in Pleasantville announcing its closing after 40 years. It was their flagship store of the four stores that they once were, including one in Bronxville.

The owners sent out a lengthy letter, as they sought to educate the public about some of the factors that contributed to their lack of ability to survive.

Sadly, it touched way too close to home for our village. It serves as a cautionary tale and perhaps will galvanize us as a community to think local and shop local to preserve the ever-disappearing small-town commercial way of life.

Chief among their reasons for closure was the pervasive pull of the Internet in search of "the bargain." To quote the owner, "Daily, we have people who come to the store, utilize the help of the staff, get to touch and feel the toys, and then order them while standing in the store on Amazon."

Next was the advent of the credit card "chip."

In order to upgrade their computer and point-of-sale purchase software, forty to fifty thousand dollars needed to be expended to accept the new chip technology. As an aside, in the owner's experienced opinion, toys are losing their importance in society. In his view, children and their parents are much more enthralled with technology and the screens and pads.

The owner saw the age group that plays with toys continually getting younger. If this is truly widespread, one wonders whether such a trend will have long-term effects on types of motor coordination.

Net-net, because of the above factors, the store's sales dropped down to 2005 levels while expenses would be at 2016 levels -- clearly not a model for sustainability.

The letter was profoundly sad and gave me pause, especially as we are in the midst of the critical buying season for all of our merchants. I don't want this scenario to play out for any of our dedicated shopkeepers.

As I have written in the past columns, but it bears repeating, long term/big picture, shopping locally is the real bargain.

For every $100 spent in a locally owned independent store, $68 returns to the home community. The same amount spent at a mall or chain store returns $48 "home," and if spent on the Internet, nothing comes back to the towns and villages.

The sales tax revenue component is key to the success of every local budget nationwide. Fully one third of all state revenues, totaling over $150 billion annually, comes from the collection of a sales tax.

Because of the increase in non-taxed Internet purchasing, Massachusetts estimates that they "lose" $335 million in sales tax revenue, and California pegs its "losses" at over $1 billion annually.

The end result is the elimination of jobs in public works and police, further eroding vital services to taxpayers.

Bringing it down to a local level, the village's share of sales tax revenue dipped enough, especially in the calendar year 2010-2011, to necessitate trimming staff hours and some special services. Without the sales tax revenue component in last year's village budget, property taxes would have risen a whopping 12%.

Bottom line, if your shopping choice is Amazon or big-box stores vs. Pondfield Road and Palmer Avenue, the savings you reap will very quickly come home to roost in the form of higher local property taxes and/or a decrease in municipal services.

In contrast, a purchase made in the village sends money directly back to our school and village government and also sends a message that you are investing in the future of our small village and all that it adds to your quality of life.

Just in today's paper, the county government is grappling with a budget that has a lower than expected sales tax component. The solution: cut jobs and trim programs in the areas of the arts and recreation.

Keeping purchases local keeps money local, saves on fuel and ancillary transportation costs, encourages a walking environment, encourages personal services that foster a human connection between merchant and customer, and supports those who support our charities and organizations.

Simply put, a vibrant downtown increases home values and decreases property taxes.

Hands down, it's your best bargain.

Pleasantville Mayor Peter Scherer.

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