It is that time of year when we all head to the stores to look for those one-of- a-kind gifts. As you head out, bear in mind the importance of shopping with our local retailers. Remember the commitment that they have made to Garden City over the years, and know that when you make their cash drawers open, you are actually helping yourself and your community.

Strong local retailers make our community more attractive to new businesses and to new residents. They show the personality of our city to the rest of the world. Their uniqueness and personal service can never be replaced by national retail chains.

Each dollar spent locally creates an additional indirect benefit of $3.50 in the local economy. Before you make plans to travel out of the area to do your shopping, think about all of the positive outcomes you reap when you choose to shop at home. Imagine that dollar you spend here is a seed — you plant it in our community and it grows. The harvest of sales tax dollars allows us to build a more beautiful and desirable community, which in turn makes our community more attractive to businesses and future residents, as well.

With sales tax revenues up significantly since the opening of Schulman Crossing, there is little question that the new national retailers are attracting shoppers to our community. If you drive through the parking lots at these stores, you will find a wide variety of communities from throughout our trade area represented there. Garden City has obviously arrived as the “retail hub” of western Kansas. The challenge now is to continue to capitalize on those new visitors and find ways to direct them to our locally owned businesses in the established shopping neighborhoods and to our downtown district.

The increased traffic in Garden City is certainly a positive thing, but many are concerned about the competition it creates for some of our existing locally owned businesses. All indicators are that new retail destinations are in fact a positive and not a negative. Competition is not a bad thing. If little or no competition was the answer, then one could not explain why so many area towns that historically had one grocery store, one restaurant and one hotel, etc., are now left with none of those businesses represented. Consumers want choices. They want to be able to comparison shop and see plenty of options before they make buying decisions. Success breeds success. These large national retailers help to attract area shoppers into our community — shoppers that many of our locally owned businesses would miss out on marketing to if they weren’t being attracted here by the “big boxes.”

When these national retailers make a commitment to doing business in Garden City, they are actually helping to ensure that the existing businesses we have are viable and valuable. Locally owned businesses often don’t have “legacy plans” in place. In many communities, the retirement or death of a business owner results in the business being shuttered. However, when retail businesses are continuing to experience sales growth due to a bustling local economy and new shoppers coming to town, those stores have a better chance of being sold to new owners who can continue to provide the personal shopping experience that their customers have grown accustomed to.

Fortunately, our local retailers are sophisticated business owners and know that they must embrace the new customers who are being drawn to Garden City. They continue to grow their product lines, provide the excellent customer service they are known for and ensure that they are being creative in their store hours and product offerings so that they are making the most of the new customer base.

As residents of the Greater Garden City area, we can do our part to see continued growth and offerings by remembering our local retailers. Never miss an opportunity to recommend a local business to those looking for particular items and, if there is a product that you aren’t finding at a local retailer, ask about it. Let them know there is a need and you’ll probably find they will do what they can to accommodate your request.

Above all, shop with our local retailers and service providers every chance you get. They are the heart of our community, and their investments should be rewarded with our shopping dollars.