Support our local economy

The shopping experience known as Black Friday is two days away, but it’s not premature to reflect on that day’s big impact on local merchants’ bottom line.

Black Friday and the weeks following it, leading up to Christmas, are a make-or-break time for numerous local stores. Actually, it’s not uncommon for some stores to operate at a financial loss for much of the year and only start realizing a profit after families’ Thanksgiving feasts have given way to the start of buying what’s on their holiday gift lists.

If you want your local stores to remain vibrant shopping meccas after holiday decorations have been packed away for another year — if you want to help ensure that they’ll be around for next year’s holiday shopping — the best advice is to patronize them in the weeks ahead.

Don’t use the fact that Black Friday shopping now starts at some stores on Thanksgiving Day as an excuse to start your shopping at some out-of-town mall or shopping center, where you’re likely not to find anything much different than what’s available here except, in some instances, higher prices and customer service that is not as helpful and efficient as what Blair County stores strive to offer.

And the money you’ll save on gasoline by shopping locally might buy — or help buy — another gift for someone on your list, or perhaps something for yourself that you’ve been putting off.

Another point: When you support local merchants, you help them support local organizations and activities throughout the year. For example, those merchants’ names that are on baseball caps and uniforms of local teams during the spring and summer aren’t picked at random; the merchants are recognized because of their financial support for leagues and specific teams.

That financial support is part of the good fallout from Black Friday and the shopping days leading up to Dec. 25.

But the theme “buy local” is not confined to these latter weeks of the year. Some readers might recall an article in the Feb. 18 Mirror in which Blair County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Joe Hurd lamented about too much money “escaping from our local economy.”

“People are still not aware about the impact it can have when we can circulate more dollars through our economy,” Hurd said.

An article in the Nov. 21, 2017, Wall Street Journal, headlined “Retailers’ holiday wish: Beat Amazon,” discussed some stores’ decision to offer earlier discounts and store prices lower than items sold online.

That’s part of the intent of those local merchants who are getting Black Friday shopping off to an earlier start, while keeping the incentive alive not to abandon shopping on Black Friday itself.

On Black Friday 2017, an Altoona woman who was first in line at one of her favorite local stores remarked that “whatever time they start, I’ll be here a couple hours (before).”

Those words exemplify what already is on the minds of many of this year’s shoppers who will be venturing out early Friday or late Thursday, regardless of the weather conditions here and how much sleep they’ll be giving up.

Their shopping successes will be worth their sacrifices.