San Luis Obispo’s progressive mayor has taken on an all-mighty adversary — Amazon.com — in what promises to be a heck of a David v. Goliath battle.
In case you missed it, Mayor Heidi Harmon issued a statement calling for a boycott of the e-commerce giant, which she accused of destroying downtowns.
“I want a world in which I can walk into a vibrant and thriving downtown and visit the local shopkeepers that I have grown to know and buy items that I need that are made with care. I hope that you do too,” she said.
So far, reaction to the mayor’s missive has not been kind.
“Heidi’s unbending ignorance is damaging our community,” one commenter wrote on The Tribune website.
“... I don’t hold Amazon responsible for all the local store closures. High rents force out too many small downtown businesses; that needs to be addressed,” wrote another.
Readers also pointed out that Amazon provides many high-paying jobs though its local office — and that many county residents have e-stores on Amazon.
One reader even suggested a recall.
So what, exactly, is Harmon’s beef with Jeff Bezos and company?
The mayor told Tribune reporter Nick Wilson that there’s been a shift from brick-and-mortar shopping to online shopping, and that’s had negative consequences for communities.
If this all sounds vaguely familiar — it is.
A couple of decades ago, big-box stores, especially Wal-Mart, were blamed for the demise of mom-and-pop retailers.
Now, the mayor is pointing her finger at Amazon — while ignoring other online retailers like Ebay, Etsy and Walmart.com.
And why now, Madam Mayor? The ascendance of online retail began years and years ago, which is exactly why San Luis Obispo city staff has been emphasizing the need to shift away from traditional retail to “experiences” that you can’t get through the mail. Like a downtown bowling alley, for instance.
Trying to turn back the clock to the pre-internet era, when we did all our shopping in our hometowns, is fruitless.
There’s a reason people have migrated to online shopping, and it isn’t just convenience. It’s also about selection, which is missing in many downtowns, including San Luis Obispo’s.
Have you shopped in downtown SLO lately? (And please, don’t tell us about the lack of downtown parking, or the broken sidewalks. We already know about that.)
Here’s the deal: If you’re in the market for a $200 pair of jeans or a $500 pair of boots, you’ll find them in downtown SLO.
Or, at the other end of the spectrum, you can buy a $10 T-shirt or a $20 pair of sandals at a retailer specializing in fast, affordable fashion..
What’s largely missing — and yes, we’re generalizing here — is shopping in the mid-price range. You know, stuff that holds up but won’t cost you a week’s salary.
Stuff you can find on Amazon ... at 2 a.m. ... while you’re in your pajamas.
And Harmon wants us to give all that up?
Sorry, Madam Mayor. This time, you’re asking too much.