Source: Sherman Publications

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Editor's Column: Let’s shop local

November 30, 2011

Did anybody get maced last weekend in Lake Orion?

Probably not. I think we are all too nice to fight for the opportunity to land so-called deals on Black Friday or Small Business Saturday.

Quite frankly, after fighting the crowds and traffic in downtown Detroit on Thursday during the annual Thanksgiving Day parade and Lions' game, I had no interest in joining the shopping crowds anywhere over the holiday weekend.

Who wants to get pepper-sprayed or trampled for a fancy television or video game system that is not really in stock anyways?

But, I will be doing some shopping in December, starting in the stores downtown and moving my way out along Lapeer Road. I pledge to only visit the malls and Brown Road retailers as a last resort.

It was disheartening to hear the recent news that Elements is leaving Lake Orion after the holiday season, a casualty of slow sales. It was a mainstay downtown for six years.

I hope this is not a forebearer of things to come in 2012. A vibrant village retail district, coupled with more than two quality restaurants to draw people into the downtown area, are key to the long-term growth and success of Lake Orion in general.

I welcome the micro-brewery moving in across the street from my office and hope that other restaurants and new retailers get similar opportunities next year. It does not take a rocket scientist to realize the more people visiting downtown Lake Orion, the better it will be for everyone who operates a business there.

The immediate need, however, is to help our local retailers have a strong holiday season in 2011. According to a local consultant to small and midsize retailers, the holiday shopping season accounts for 50-70 percent of total annual sales for some small businesses.

We owe it to those businesses left in the village to support them, especially given their perseverance during Streetscape and the ongoing economic recession.

One businessman told me, based on his experience, people take their holiday shopping lists and go to the malls and big box retailers first to buy 80 percent of their gifts. But the remaining 20 percent can only be found at specialty stores, so he expects business to pick up closer to Christmas.

Let's brighten his and our other local retailers' holidays by turning the tables on this shopping trend.

I say we focus the entire month of December – not just one day – on shopping at our small businesses in the community – retailers, restaurants, service providers and others.

Rather than wait until later in the month, let's start our holiday buying here and maybe finish it, too, keeping all of our money in Lake Orion. While we are at it, let's purchase all of our food for the holidays at local grocery stores, or visit the corner party store to pick up a favorite bottle to share with family and friends.

Wouldn't it be great if our local businesses enjoyed an unexpected sales bump this year, brightening their outlook for the winter and 2012?

Try not to cut in line, though, and keep the pepper spray at home.