LOGAN – While COVID-19 has kept people away from shopping at local retailers, online sales from Amazon and other online giants have gone through the roof this Christmas season.
The National Retail Federation estimated this fall that November and December online retail sales will pass $766 billion. That doesn’t include gas station, restaurant and automobile dealer sales.
While online retailers are doing a booming business, main streets across the country are fighting to stay open. Dozens of big box stores and national chains have closed over the last 48 months.
In some of Logan’s surrounding communities where small entrepreneurs are trying to make a go of it despite online shopping, box stores, pandemics and the lure of a day of shopping in a bigger city, smaller town’s chamber of commerce organizations are trying to keep their residents shopping local.
Jason Porter, membership director of the Cache Valley Chamber of Commerce, said they are pushing people to shop local. Although they currently aren’t running a campaign towards that objective, he said it still be important for people to shop at local establishments.
“Every dollar spent locally is recycled seven times in the community,” Porter said. “Shopping local puts money back into the Cache Valley economy.”
He said the Cache Valley Chamber is currently running a Stay Safe Stay Open campaign and there are some 300 businesses who have taken the pledge.
“We are also trying to help businesses effected by COVID. We give them free memberships until things get turned around,” he explained. “We also have a Stay Safe to Stay Open campaign to encourage local businesses to follow CDC guidelines.”
Gary Saxton of the Logan Downtown Alliance said they do the Gingerbread Parade and decorate Center Street to get people downtown to shop.
“The Bear River Health Department has shut down large gatherings downtown,” he said. “That makes it difficult to bring large groups so most of the merchants are using social media for promotions.”
In other smaller cities’ chamber of commerce, they are working to keep their main street alive by hustling every dollar to keep their small businesses from closing.
Monica Holdaway, executive director of the Box Elder Chamber of Commerce, said their focus this time of year is shop local, also.
“We have a shop local promotion. We have red cards people pick up at merchants and they can fill them up by shopping at 50 different local business. Once they are filled up, they are taken to one of seven locations and turned in for a drawing. There are five locations in Brigham City and two locations in Tremonton where the red cards can be turned in.”
There is a drawing each week and winners are given prizes. The prizes are generally donated by participating merchants and could be either gift cards or merchandise. “We print 30,000 tickets, we have about 8,500 people participate every year, and we give out 125 prizes during this Christmas season promotion.
“People carry the card with them and when they spend enough money the card is marked.”
When the card is full, they put it in a box at one of those seven locations.
Brigham City has run the promotion for years. It has changed a little over that time and has proved to be very successful, she said.
“We have also done three different shop local scavenger hunts,” she said. “We did one for Halloween, one Thanksgiving and one for the Christmas Holidays.”
The Preston Area Chamber of Commerce has a similar punch card system to keep local dollars home. Natasha Siepert, the Secretary-Treasurer of the Preston Area Chamber, said they are trying to get people to shop local because some of the stores are struggling due to the pandemic.
“COVID has hit everyone hard around here and we want to promote and support our local business,” she said. “We want people to shop our small businesses. We don’t have a lot of large chain stores here.”
Michelle McNeely of Sun Sage Floral in Preston is the President Elect of the Preston Chamber, and she said there are all a lot of Ma and Pa shops trying to survive.
So when shopping for a gift for family, friends or neighbors, locally-owned businesses rely on those purchases to keep people employed and the local economy strong.