Representatives from several Nassau County chambers of commerce kicked off an annual "shop local" campaign Tuesday, starting more than a month earlier than last year to keep up with the holiday programs already in high gear at the big chain stores.
"When we saw the advertisements of Walmart and Kmart and various big-box stores offering layaway programs, we thought we would move our program up a bit so we could grab a piece of the pie," said Julie Marchesella, president of the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce. The event was held at her Queen of Hearts formalwear store in Merrick.
The holiday season is always critical for retailers, many of whom do 20 percent to 40 percent of their annual business during this period. Merchants are feeling some pressure to extend the season this year, with Hanukkah beginning at sundown on Nov. 27 and six fewer shopping days between Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) and Christmas Day.
In addition, many Long Island businesses that were either disrupted or damaged by superstorm Sandy in 2012 say they need to do well because they are still making up for lost revenues during the 2012 holiday season and money spent to rebuild.
"Let's give them a boost and keep them going by making an extra effort to shop local this year," urged Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, who helped launch the campaign. Mangano said local businesses were among the first to offer donations and supplies to victims of superstorm Sandy. He added, "Money spent in Nassau County stays here in Nassau County. It creates employment. It creates beautification."
Last year there was no holiday season for a large number of Freeport merchants, especially those on the Nautical Mile, said Lois Howes, first vice president of the Freeport Chamber of Commerce and a travel agent.
"They are still trying to recoup, especially since they all laid out their own money to renovate their businesses and their homes," Howes said. She added that many merchants live in Freeport and had storm-damaged houses.
The benefits of shopping local often go beyond the immediate community, outside retail experts said.
"Shopping at independent merchants also supports the national economy," said Patricia Norins, a retail expert and spokeswoman for American Express' Small Business Saturday, a national holiday shopping event held on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. "Nearly half of total retail sales in the U.S.," Norins said, "come from independent businesses."