Make a point to patronize small, hometown merchants.

Some holiday shoppers got off to an even faster start this year.

The usual Black Friday sales drew eager shoppers to stores across the nation, where lines of consumers seeking bargains formed in the wee hours of the morning.

But for some merchants, Black Friday the day after Thanksgiving when many national retailers look to reach profitability, or go "in the black" became the second day of this year's holiday shopping season, as some stores opted to open their doors to consumers on Thanksgiving Day.

Not everyone would buy in, though. The National Retail Federation (NRF), a Washington-based trade association, had reported that just 14 percent of survey respondents planned to start shopping on Thanksgiving, either in stores or online.

Such Thanksgiving shopping opportunities aren't likely to materialize anytime soon for many Main Street merchants. Even Friday's buying frenzy mostly involved big-box retailers, as has been the case in recent years.

On Main Street, where many independent retailers reside, the "day" set aside for those merchants would be today, with Small Business Saturday a time for consumers to consider all their hometown retailers have to offer.

Small retailers, also known as mom-and-pop stores, work hard to stay viable amid competition from big retailers and Internet shopping sites.

While they can't always compete in terms of inventory and pricing, hometown retailers have an opportunity during the holiday shopping season to flaunt unrivaled customer service, along with niche and specialty products and services.

Plus, money spent with hometown retailers supports friends and neighbors, and is returned to the local economy. All local dollars spent whether at national chains or speciality shops downtown put more sales taxes into local coffers, which benefits the community as a whole.

And this year, the NRF predicted total holiday sales involving retailers of all sizes nationwide up about 4 percent over last year. That's a bright forecast for every community.

Economic development and growth continue to be priorities in Finney County. With that in mind, local shoppers should remember one easy way to contribute to the community's economic well-being, during the holiday season and beyond: Shop at home.