The Curry Coastal Pilot

The spectre of the "box store," and the negative impact one might have on local stores, has cast a shadow over Brookings with the news that Bi-Mart may be opening here soon.

However, is Bi-Mart really the big threat many think it is?

Certainly, there is plenty of evidence in small towns across America where small businesses have closed following the arrival of box stores, but there's more to it than that, especially here in Brookings.

The recession is one factor. It has taken a toll on our pocketbooks, and subsequently on many businesses that have folded in the last few years.

The Internet is a second factor. With increasing numbers of shoppers ordering goods online, the Internet has supplanted the recession and box stores as a threat to "mom-and-pop" enterprises.

Looking around town, do we see many local retailers that are likely to go head-to-head with Bi-Mart? Not many. Those that offer products similar to Bi-Mart's, how will they compete?

They won't. They'd better find a niche and stick to it. And they'd better offer exemplary service.

Good examples of this approach include Chetco Pharmacy and Gifts, and A Wild Bird and Backyard General Store, which have built strong, loyal customer bases despite the presence of Fred Meyer and box stores in Crescent City.

Local retailers that haven't found a niche should start looking for it now, six months to a year before Bi-Mart will open. Study the competition and then offer different lines of clothes, food and products or, at the very least, a better variety of items. A store's survival could depend on something as simple as opening earlier or staying open later than the "big guys."

And let's be honest, the box stores are not all bad. In addition to contributing property tax and creating local jobs, a Bi-Mart is likely to attract additional consumers to Brookings who will, in turn, shop at the local shops and restaurants that make up the economic heartbeat of our community.

A healthy balance of chain and local stores is good for the Brookings economy.

Whether Bi-Mart opens a store or not, we ask readers to consider local retailers when making spending decisions. Especially during the holiday season. Our local merchants support youth sports, local artists, nonprofit organizations and schools. We all have a stake in their success.