Jen Ezpeleta

‘Local Love MB’ campaign launched in hopes of helping struggling businesses

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by Mark McDermott 

It’s not quite the cavalry, but a movement is afoot to come to the aid of local businesses struggling to survive the pandemic-stricken economy. The campaign is called Local Love MB and it intends to boost local business by bringing attention to the difference consumers can make by spending their money in Manhattan Beach. 

The Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce has joined with the City of Manhattan Beach, the Manhattan Beach Downtown Business and Professionals Association, the North End Business Improvement, and the Manhattan Village shopping center in creating the Local Love MB campaign. 

Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Kelly Stroman said Local Love MB is a call to action for residents to support local businesses. 

“We hope that as a community we can rally together to support local business to help the community survive the pandemic and then bounce back when this virus has run its course,” Stroman said. 

The campaign’s social media hashtag is #MBLocalLove. The City has produced a Local Love for Manhattan Beach video and plans are underway to hoist banners in support of shopping locally on city streets. Some stores are expected to produce Local Love MB merchandise. 

“We need everybody to be economic champions right now to make sure that despite this pandemic we keep Manhattan Beach vibrant,” Stroman said. “I just don’t think people realize how important it is right now to shop local, to buy local, to eat local.” 

Mayor Richard Montgomery noted that spending money locally helps preserve the very character of the town. 

“Every dollar spent in Manhattan Beach benefits the local economy and helps pay for public safety, schools, street repairs, parks maintenance, recreation opportunities and other City services,” Montgomery said. “Our businesses help preserve our small-town beach character and now, more than ever, we should shop and dine locally to support them through these trying times.”

It’s a fight for life or death for many of those businesses. According to the Chamber of Commerce, 11 businesses in downtown Manhattan Beach have already gone out of business —  including such longtime stalwarts as Diane’s, Trina Turk, and Jamba Juice. 

Stroman said the businesses in every area of the city face a steep challenge. “Other businesses in other parts of Manhattan Beach have closed, or are hanging on by their fingernails right now,” she said. 

One of the key indicators for local retail business is city sales tax receipts. According to the city’s finance department, from April through June those receipts were down 29.5 percent from the same period last year. A deeper dive into those figures showed that general consumer goods, including electronics/appliance and specialty stores, women’s and family apparel, home furnishings, and stationery/bookstores accounted for almost half of the decrease. Manhattan Beach’s decline was steeper than the 16.3 percent statewide sales tax decline for the same quarter, owing in large part to the fact that LA County was hit harder by COVID-19 and businesses faced more restrictions.  

“There was just a massive loss in hospitality,” Stroman said. “The hotels were down to single digit occupancy for the first three months —  I mean, nine or ten rooms. So that had a major impact on the city, as well.” 

Stroman said that Manhattan Beach is not in uniquely dire straits and emphasized the positive things that are also occurring, including the opening of new restaurants downtown, the reopening of Manhattan Village shopping center (at 25 percent occupancy) and the fact that new stores have already opened in some of locations that closed —  including Founded in 1912, a locally owned swimwear shop whose owner started working at Diane’s, and subsequently worked at the Australian-based swimwear shop Seafolly, and Vuori Clothing. But she also emphasized how devastating the impacts of the pandemic have been and continue to be. The ad hoc committee of local business groups and city officials which established the campaign realized in August, she said, that pandemic would be an economic fact of life well into next year. 

“It’s not going away any time soon,” Stroman said. 

Stroman stressed the importance of each and every dollar spent staying local, whether for gas, food, clothes, or books. Nearly every retailer and all restaurants now make that easier than ever before, she noted, with delivery services and curbside pickup. 

“There is no town on Amazon,” she said. “You don’t get that personal touch. If you are going to buy, spend, or eat, you want to try to do it in your city.” ER 

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