The holiday shopping season is always a critical time for businesses large and small, chain-owned and independent, warehouse and boutique. If they can make money in the fourth quarter of the year, they'll likely make it for another year.
In any year, that's a big chore, and when the economy is sagging, the challenge can be staggering. But there have been signs, albeit small ones, that the economy is starting to perk up, not just across the country but in Merced County, too.
Although the recovery seems to be getting to the valley much more slowly and less dramatically than the decline, the region's retailers acknowledge they're seeing more activity this holiday season than in recent years.
That means consumer confidence is returning, an important component for any long-term recovery.
With the arrival of the last weekend for shopping before Christmas, businesses everywhere, but especially in Merced, are hoping for a strong turnout. That's why its important for Merced County residents who have more shopping to do to buy local.
Buying local supports jobs and keeps tax dollars here at home where they are needed -- and do the most good. Whether shopping at the Merced Mall, big box outlets in Atwater, smaller shopping centers throughout the county or at boutiques in downtown Merced, purchases at all those sites pay big dividends that ripple through the local economy in the best possible way.
And don't forget the mom-and-pop shops and smaller independent stores. They need holiday shoppers even more than the big chain outlets. What they lack in selection and price, they make up for in the quality of the shopping experience and attention to detail -- customer service.
So this weekend, while planning to cross the last items off that shopping list, shoppers need to make sure they focus on tracking down Merced County businesses that can provide what's needed. It's the best way to ensure a happy holiday season for Merced businesses and shoppers alike.