I swore I would never be one of those people. You know who I’m referring to - the people who put up their Christmas tree right after Halloween. The people who have their shopping done, presents wrapped and garland hung long before the Thanksgiving feast. But this year, I decided to jump on the bandwagon for the sake of our readers. The social media discussion among my Facebook friends has been, admittedly, very negative in regards to shopping local this year. Being the eternal optimist that I am, I’ve tried very hard to remind naysayers about the many wonderful advantages of living and shopping in a small town – shorter lines, less traffic, convenience of spreading out purchases instead of cramming a huge expense into one weekend excursion, and the intrinsic value of supporting friends and neighbors who own our small businesses. But my positive attitude and gentle suggestions didn’t seem to be enough for this crowd. So I decided to hit the streets to bust the FIVE MYTHS OF SHOPPING OUT-OF-TOWN:Myth #1 – Great Bend’s sales tax is higher than the big city.I’ve never considered sales tax to be a big enough reason to leave town to shop elsewhere. But in light of the discussion on the subject, I want to set the record straight. After researching the sales tax rates for four of the state’s largest shopping centers (Wichita, Kansas City, Lawrence, and Topeka) the average sales tax rate for those communities is 8.24% as compared to Great Bend’s rate of 8.05%. While it is true that some places offer lower rates than Great Bend, I can promise that the amount of money saved by traveling to another community will not be enough to offset the cost of the fuel to get there.MYTH #2 – Big city stores have better prices than Great Bend stores.I can’t convince you that big city stores never beat local prices. In many instances, the buying-in-bulk philosophy really does work. Best Buy may sell cheaper electronics, and Dillards may offer deep cuts during their huge Black Friday sale. But from personal experience, I can vouch for the customer service of local business owners. I rest assured that they will stand behind their products, go out of their way to make a special order, and often provide free gift wrapping. With a little advance planning, I was able to find unique gifts for everyone on my shopping list. And by hitting Explore Great Bend sales, I saved money too.MYTH #3 – Shopping in Great Bend means I get fewer choices in stores.Like everyone, I enjoy visiting Olive Garden when I travel out-of-town and the occasional splurge at Bed, Bath & Beyond is a much-anticipated thrill. But the idea that Great Bend doesn’t have enough variety in its retail selection is absurd. We have a thriving downtown shopping district with numerous boutique stores and gift shops all over town. The intersection of three major highways on 10th Street gives us more retail and dining selections than most towns our size. Our main problem is a consumer base that refuses to get out and explore the retail stores before deciding to shop elsewhere.MYTH #4 – I have a better experience when I shop elsewhere.This is one that literally makes me laugh out loud. After the pleasant trips I had throughout town spread out over several Saturday excursions, I can’t imagine the stress I would’ve felt trying to cram all that into one weekend trip. On top of that, dealing with road rage city drivers and long check-out lines would’ve taken away from the experience even more. For me, the best part of shopping local was driving ten minutes across town to unload my car instead of 2-4 hours after a stressful weekend trip out-of-town.MYTH #5 – It doesn’t make a huge difference in our tax base if I shop out of town.As you’ll see on the next page, my holiday shopping resulted in a little more than $35 of sales tax revenue being generated for City projects, such as road and bridge improvements, park maintenance, and other services such as street sweeping, snow removal, etc. Had I chosen to shop elsewhere, not only would I have spent almost 50 percent more on sales tax, I would’ve been contributing to the City services offered in a community I will never spend much time in. If every consumer in Great Bend chose to keep their $35 locally, it would result in over $150,000 of additional revenue for City programs.RESULTS OF THIS EXPERIMENT: The attached chart compares the purchases made in Great Bend stores as compared to the purchases I would’ve made online or out-of-town. In addition to comparing what I spent locally with what I would’ve spent elsewhere, I’ve also compared how much sales tax revenue I generated for local roads, bridges, and parks by shopping in Great Bend. Not to mention the amount of time I saved on travel to another community, the money I saved on fuel and lodging, and the stress I didn’t incur in box store check-out lines and rush traffic hours. And on top of all of that, I had the opportunity to register for the $1000 Explore Great Bend shopping spree giveaway while I was at it. I ran into friends and neighbors, and truly enjoyed the experience. In conclusion, I declare that these five myths about shopping out-of-town are officially BUSTED.
Contact Rachel Mawhirter at