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Local merchants competing with Internet

Robert Blechl

BURBANK -- Their early uses consisted of calculating arithmetic

equations, keeping track of taxes and tallying votes.

Now, several decades after the invention of the first computers,

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consumers are using their high-tech descendants to shop from their homes.

Some local merchants said this new means of purchasing is making a

dent in the amount of seasonal shoppers that are visiting their stores, a

trend economists predict will only increase.

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“A lot of traditional shoppers are now online,” said CSUN professor

Allen Martin, the coordinator of the school’s Consumer Affairs Program.

“There’s definitely an impact because there are so many e-commerce

businesses that are successful. And that’s measured by the fact that

traditional retailers, like Wal-Mart and Barnes and Noble, are getting

into it. They wouldn’t be getting into it unless they already feel some

economic impact.”

Martin said even his parents, who were traditional shoppers until

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recently, have made an online Christmas list this holiday season.

“That’s hundreds of dollars that didn’t go into retail,” he said.

“Every dollar spent online is one less spent in stores.”

Brian Draper, owner and manager of Geographia Map and Travel Book

Store on Riverside Drive, said online shopping may be responsible for

somewhat lighter-than-average foot traffic in his shop, but business is

still strong.

“I suspect it’s having an effect, but we still have a few weeks until

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Christmas,” Draper said. “Although Christmas isn’t as crucial for us,

because our business is spread throughout the year, it has traditionally

been the busiest.”

Suzanne Accomando, the owner of Trinkets and Treasures gift shop at

Evergreen Street and Riverside Drive, said this year has been the first

that she’s noticed a slight decrease in customers.

“Business has been steady and progressive, but I think online shopping

has affected it a little,” she said. CSUN economics professor Robert

Krol said electronic commerce can never entirely replace traditional

shopping.

“If it’s a repeat purchase, something you buy all the time, online

shopping would make a significant impact,” Krol said. “But if it’s

something you need to try on or look at first, then you need to go to the

store.”

Dan Millman, general manager of Media City Center Mall, agreed, saying

retail buying will never go out of style.

“I don’t see our big stores getting hurt this year,” Millman said.

“Online shopping will be an extremely important factor in the future, but

I don’t think it will replace malls or brick-and-mortar retail stores.”

But Martin said shopping via computer has yet to reach its full

stride.

“These online establishments will eventually increase the total dollar

volume of items sold,” Martin said.

Draper, however, said his travel bookstore offers shoppers something

the Internet does not.

“We have things people can’t get online,” Draper said. “We sell a lot

of globes, wall maps and picture books.”

And despite its efficiency, some merchants feel the computer monitor

will never replace the enjoyment of visiting stores and the warmth that

sometimes comes with human interaction.

“We wrap everything for free,” said Linda Adams, manager of Trinkets

and Treasures. “Our customers get individual service. People come here

because they feel comfortable.”


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