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Online shopping, more hours could plug retail leakage

Shopping can sometimes be frustrating in small towns like Picayune and Poplarville. Local businesses often beat bigger chains when it comes to customer service, but not with accessibility.

Many local businesses open at eight in the morning, close at five in the afternoon and keep their doors shut over the weekend. This can be frustrating for locals who work during those same hours but want to shop after work and on the weekend. Shorter business hours lead to less accessibility for local consumers, which in turn lead to revenue leaking into neighboring cities.

Last week, Mississippi State University Extension Agent Alan Barefield gave a presentation about revenue leakage in Pearl River County. Barefield pointed out that a large percentage of Pearl River County residents live outside the city limits of Picayune or Poplarville. These people may not come into town often, and when they do, restricted store hours can easily entice patrons to shop in other cities. One of his suggestions to improve sales is for local businesses to offer a “shop at home” program.

Essentially, a shop at home program would allow customers to purchase items online from the comfort of their home. Businesses that offer online purchasing options could continue to reach their consumer base, even with shorter hours. Businesses that offer online shopping could even expand their customer base to other parts of the country or even the world. 

With Mississippi’s new online sales tax laws, businesses would generate tax for online purchases, allowing local governments to benefit from the increase in revenue. 

To increase sales and begin to bring revenue back into Pearl River County, local businesses should look into the possibility of offering online shopping options, in addition to store hours that cater to the working individual.