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Please Think Lancaster First when you shop

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Today is Black Friday, the official beginning of our nation’s frenzied holiday shopping season. Retailers everywhere have been gearing up for this day for months, hoping to draw in shoppers with once-a-year deals.
Now that the holiday shopping season is in full swing, we’d like to remind shoppers to Think Lancaster First before heading to malls outside the county to do their holiday shopping.
Think Lancaster First is an ongoing local effort spearheaded by the Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce that dovetails nicely with this week’s national Buy Local Week (Nov. 25-Dec. 4).
The chamber initiative’s goal is to change the mindset of Lancaster County residents to Think Lancaster First before they spend their money outside the county or on the Internet, says chamber President Dean Faile.
“We want everyone to try to spend their money locally, whether it’s for shopping, dining or going to the doctor,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll keep more money flowing through the local economy, knowing that, in the end, that will generate more jobs.”
The chamber’s been putting up billboards and advertising in local media, as well as distributing marketing materials – yard signs, posters, decals and notepads – to local businesses, so look for the Think Lancaster First logo when you’re out shopping.
The effort, now in its second year, had a positive effect on holiday sales last year. Lancaster County saw an 18.4 percent increase in retail sales for the fourth quarter in 2010, compared to 2009, according to Faile. This was the highest average increase in the state and 7 percent higher than the state average. That meant $13.5 million more in retail sales here.
“We don’t claim the campaign was the sole catalyst in this increase, but it is reasonable to believe it played a significant role,” Faile said.  
Research from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance backs him up. It reports that sales in areas with shop-local campaigns were up 5.6 per-
        cent last year, compared to 2.1 percent in other areas.
Shopping locally for the holidays is important to the county’s economy in many ways. When you shop here, you help ensure that local retailers not only stay in business, but can expand as well, which creates a positive ripple effect that benefits us all through the higher sales tax revenues and expanded payrolls created by a bustling economy.
Not that the economy is exactly bustling these days. But that only makes it more important for us to keep more of our dollars here than spending them in another county or state.
And with most folks here still on tight budgets this year, it’s also more practical to shop locally than to drive anywhere out of the county to go shopping. Wouldn’t you rather spend your hard-earned money on gifts than gasoline?
Just think what a boost it would be to our local economy if every dollar Lancaster County residents spend on gifts (an average of $764, according to a November Gallup poll) this year stayed right here in the county. Even if you subtract the 4,534 of us without jobs and figure that $764 average on a per-household basis, that rings up to about $18.6 million.
Economists say when a dollar is spent in the community, it typically recycles five times, which means spending your holiday dollars here would have the real economic impact of about $93 million.
We know it may not be possible to do all your shopping here. Lancaster County does not have some popular stores, such as Toys “R” Us, Victoria’s Secret and mall outlets. We also realize the Internet offers a convenient way to shop for everything, including some things not available locally.
But we encourage you to Think Lancaster First this Christmas season. Lancaster County has big-chain department stores, discount stores and hundreds of smaller businesses offering, literally, everything from soup to nuts. And there are not nearly the traffic jams here that you’ll encounter around the malls in Ballantyne, Charlotte, Columbia, Pineville and Rock Hill this time of year.
We think you could easily do almost all your holiday shopping at local stores. We hope you will Think Lancaster First when you do your holiday shopping – it will make a difference to all of us.
We wish you luck as you shop – and we think you’ll find many great gifts and bargains right here in Lancaster County.