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Shoppers are looking to local shops, like Building Character in Lancaster City, for Christmas gifts in anticipation of supply chain issues that may impact traditional shopping locations. Lancaster City, November 5, 2021.

THE ISSUE: Holiday shoppers are “reacting to supply chain concerns by buying what’s immediately available right in front of them at local retailers. In part, due to the disruptions in the global supply chain, the percentage of shoppers expected to visit local independent stores is 27%, up from 26% in 2020, according to the Deloitte Insights survey,” LNP | LancasterOnline’s Aniya Thomas reported in the Sunday LNP. Small Business Saturday, the first Saturday after Thanksgiving, was launched by American Express in 2010, when many small businesses were trying to rebound from the Great Recession. Situated between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday is now a traditional part of the holiday shopping season.

We’re big supporters of Small Business Saturday and all of the ways in which it helps to strengthen our sense of community, as well as the local economy.

When it comes to small businesses, we firmly believe that Lancaster County is second to none. Small and independent retailers dot nearly every corner of the county. The options for shopping are plentiful.

Small Business Saturday is crucial because it draws attention back to this sector — which is especially needed given the damaging economic fallout of this long-lasting pandemic. Local businesses have been hit by inflationary trends, worker shortages and the reticence that some people still have to venture out while COVID-19 remains a significant threat.

That’s all the more reason they need our support, whether it’s in person or online, this season.

Angie Piel, a 63-year-old Lancaster resident, summed up perfectly why small businesses are wonderful for holiday shopping:

“The reason I shop locally is because when I go into the stores people know my name, they recognize me, and they treat me special,” Piel told LNP | LancasterOnline’s Thomas. “So, I don’t have to worry about supply chains. I have a really good supply of local vendors that can meet most of my holiday shopping needs.”

Piel noted the additional benefits of bundling up and heading out to shop on Saturday (or any day): “It’s a delight and a joy for me to walk around downtown, see everything decorated nicely and enjoy the flavor of shopping downtown. The times are challenging for many of our local retail and restaurant friends; if people focused and concentrated on supporting them, it would assure us of better times to come.”

Meanwhile, Lancaster City Alliance and the city are partnering to give shoppers options that go beyond Small Business Saturday.

While we might consider Cyber Monday a day to surf for deals from the big online retailers, “smaller retailers are increasingly getting into the act as cities like Lancaster promote it as a day to buy online from local shops,” Thomas wrote.

And Lancaster Shops Late, which has its own Facebook event page, is slated for Thursday, Dec. 9. It’s a night when retailers are encouraged to remain open until 9 p.m., bringing visitors downtown, hoping they’ll stop for a meal at a local restaurant and do some holiday shopping.

Mark your calendar for that one.

Anne Williams, a spokesperson for Lancaster City Alliance, told Thomas that these multiple options are designed to be as welcoming and convenient as possible for shoppers. A key goal is to keep money within the community.

“Our hope is that these events are a way for the community to feel like we’ve recovered,” Williams said. “And that it’s an opportunity for our shop owners after a difficult year and a half to showcase that we’re a resilient community and that we’re still here to offer up a wonderful holiday experience.”

This isn’t just a Lancaster city thing, of course. There are opportunities for Small Business Saturday shoppers across the county, including in Lititz, Mount Joy, Elizabethtown, Ephrata, Strasburg, Columbia and New Holland.

LNP | LancasterOnline correspondent Donna Walker wrote that Elizabethtown “has at least four buildings where vendors sell their wares in shared spaces.” That means plenty of one-of-a-kind items for shoppers, and it also fosters a spirit of cooperation among those businesses.

“We’re a large group trying to work together,” Carissa Ressler, owner of Kairos Massage and Skin Care, told Walker.

And Main Street Mount Joy and Mount Joy’s small businesses are teaming up to draw shoppers for Small Business Saturday — and beyond — with a downtown “elf hunt” that begins today and continues through Dec. 22.

“A number of Elf on the Shelf elves will be hidden at downtown businesses,” reported LNP | LancasterOnline correspondent Rochelle A. Shenk. “Participants are challenged with finding them using a hunting map that’s available on (Main Street Mount Joy’s) Facebook page. A prize will be awarded to the person who finds the most elves.”

“Without regular local support, these businesses might not survive against the chains and big-box stores,” Dave Schell, Main Street Mount Joy executive director, said.

Purchasing gift cards from local businesses can be part of the equation, too. Merchants will appreciate any amount that you spend in their shops or on their websites.

And, as we noted last year, the idea of gift cards should extend to the county’s many family restaurants. Giving loved ones a gift card for dine-in or takeout food helps to boost beleaguered eateries that have faced so much uncertainty during this long pandemic.

Warwick High School student Piper Hepler wrote in her Generation Z(eal) column for the Oct. 24 Sunday LNP: “Being in a restaurant family, I got a front-row seat to the challenges that restaurant owners faced and how they were able to push through them.”

Hepler urged readers — and we do, too — to think about everything those local restaurants have been through and “assist in their comeback.”

Spending dollars in small local businesses is a win-win situation for shoppers and Lancaster County. Each purchase we make helps to ensure that those who help to make this county so special can continue to thrive. 

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