Is Amazon rendering downtown obsolete?

Amazon is taking over the world, right? We keep hearing this over and over with the internet giant’s online sales continuing to grow. Recently, Amazon purchased Whole Foods and is now slashing food prices. Is Amazon killing traditional shopping areas like downtown Durango?

The Durango Business Improvement District’s board of directors has been watching the online shopping trend for some time now. It seems that shopping habits have changed. Gone are the days that you wander a shopping area, just window shopping. In today’s fast-paced world, we are more purposeful in our shopping. We know what we want, know our price point and search that out in the easiest possible way.

Amazon has definitely helped people do just that. The ease of internet shopping and having products delivered to your door is tempting. A friend of mine who drives for a package-delivery company said that roughly half the packages on his daily route are from Amazon. So is this hurting retail as we know it?

According to the Commerce Department, online retail sales were 8 percent of all retail sales in 2016. That means 92 percent of all retail transactions are still made in brick-and-mortar stores. While it is difficult at best for small, independently owned businesses to compete with the Amazons of the online world on price, online stores cannot win on customer service. Your local store knows their products and can help you understand them and find the one that is best for you.

Downtown Durango is still setting records for total sales, despite the growth of online shopping. Over the past 10 years, from 2007 to 2016, total sales downtown have increased 19 percent. In only two of these years did sales go down compared with the year prior, and one of those was when the Great Recession hit Durango in 2009. In the only other down year, 2014, sales were off by 0.1 percent, so they essentially were flat that year. In 2016, total sales downtown were just under $251 million.

Visitors to our town many times will rate their experience downtown on Trip Advisor. BID is the manager of the Historic Downtown Durango Trip Advisor page, and time after time, we see comments about how great it is to stroll and shop the variety of stores downtown. When people are on vacation, they still window-shop, and they do it a lot.

Locals are here year-round, so attracting them away from internet shopping and into our local stores is important. BID has created a business directory of downtown and uptown businesses that currently has 400 businesses in it. The idea is to make it easier for locals to find what they need. The next time you are about to pick up your phone to shop for something, give BID’s business directory a try. Or even better, come downtown and stroll around our wonderful, walkable shopping area where you will get great customer service and keep your dollars local.

Please remember to shop local when you can. Tim Walsworth is the executive director of the Durango Business Improvement District.