Another frenetic holiday shopping season is under way.
Shoppers stormed stores in Garden City and beyond Friday in search of "door-buster" specials and other bargains.
Some even got an earlier jump on their shopping, as a number of merchants opened on Thanksgiving Day to give consumers a head start.
Retailers, as always, are depending on strong early returns. The forecast for this year's holiday shopping season from the National Retail Federation — the country's largest retail trade group — called for a nice surge in spending, but not quite the increase of the past couple of years.
Many retailers consider the holiday shopping period in November and December a make-or-break time. Black Friday was so named because it's the day many merchants will turn a profit for the year.
As the consumers they depend on look to fill holiday gift lists, we would expect many to be tempted by the opportunity to make more purchases online or out of town. Before doing so, shoppers should consider what local merchants have to offer, plus the many benefits of keeping their dollars home — and why it's especially important to patronize independent, locally-owned businesses.
Smaller merchants, the so-called "mom-and-pop" stores, work hard to stay viable amid the proliferation of big-box retailers and Internet shopping sites. While they can't always compete in terms of inventory and pricing, hometown stores have an opportunity during the holiday shopping season to flaunt unrivaled customer service, along with niche and specialty products.
It's good to know dollars spent with those merchants support friends and neighbors, and are returned to the local economy.
Also worth noting is how the success of all retailers matters during the hectic holiday shopping season. Every dollar spent — whether at national chain stores, speciality shops downtown or elsewhere — puts sales taxes into local coffers, which in turn benefit the community as a whole.
Purchasing items at home remains an easy way to invest in our future well-being. People should keep that in mind as they head to stores, and do what they can to make local cash registers sing a happy holiday tune.