PEORIA — The shop-local movement is no longer a subject just raised for the holidays. The concept has morphed into a regional, 365-day effort designed to let shoppers know the importance of spending money in central Illinois rather than with online retailers.
City and county officials joined with retailers at a news conference to kick off the "Shop Local 365" campaign Tuesday at the Sunbeam Building, 923 N. Sheridan Road.
Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis made it clear why the year-round shop-local initiative was important. "We estimate that (over the period of a year) the city of Peoria has lost about $4 million in sales tax to the internet. That impacts funding fire and police services and public works projects," he said.
Chris Setti, CEO of the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council, acknowledged that the new effort was designed to broaden locally-oriented campaigns that have been run in the past across community boundaries.
"Communities share consumers. They move back and forth. We just want to be known as a community that shops locally," he said of the new five-county effort in central Illinois.
Communities across Illinois have seen sales tax revenue slide in the face of mounting online sales and the closing of retail chains such as Bergner's and Toys R Us.
Setti said towns receive just a fraction of sales tax revenue collected for online sales. While the state of Illinois receives $5 of $100 spent whether it be at a retail store or online, the city of Peoria receives only .009 cents on a $100 online purchase compared to $2.75 at a local brick-and-mortar store.
Car dealer Gary Uftring was one of the retailers at the conference who spoke of the importance of shopping locally, urging local businesses to emphasize customer service. "People don't forget if they're treated right or have an unsatisfactory experience," he said.
Local retailers support local causes and charities, said Uftring, adding that supporting local business provides opportunities for young people to own their own businesses.
Bill Fleming, executive director of the Pekin Chamber of Commerce, said the regional approach to the campaign was important. "We shouldn't look at it as a competition such as Peoria versus East Peoria. The bottom line is we want to keep money in the region," he said.
The Shop Local 365 shouldn't be confused with the Small Business Saturday program that's been initiated in recent years, said organizers. Shopping local doesn't necessarily mean "shopping small." Visiting big box retailers like Target or Walmart brings tax dollars back to the local community, said Setti.
"You can even shop online at these stores as long as you pick up purchased items in-store," he said.
Steve Tarter covers city and county government for the Journal Star. He can be reached at 686-3260 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at Twitter@SteveTarter and facebook.com/tartersource