Our View: Pound the pavement a little when gift shopping this season
Downtown hoteliers, restaurateurs and retailers are no doubt looking forward to a busy and profitable Thanksgiving weekend, when more than 20,000 people are expected to attend a variety of events at Mayo Civic Center, including the annual Hiawatha Homes Festival of Trees, Disney Live, a Jehovah's Witness circuit meeting and a concert by George Winston.
These events are expected to have an economic impact of $1.5 million, and the influx of out-of-town money should be a welcome kick-start to the holiday shopping season.
But outside dollars won't ensure the success of local retailers during the make-or-break six weeks between now and the new year. If Rochester-area businesses are going to survive — and hopefully thrive — they need local residents to spend their locally-earned paychecks at local businesses, especially during the crucial holiday season.
Nationally, the retail forecast is improving, albeit far from rosy. Retail sales have grown for 14 consecutive months, and the National Retail Federation is forecasting a 2.8 percent increase over last year's holiday sales figures.
But we're concerned about how much of those sales won't involve people actually walking into businesses. The NRF reports that the average shopper will do 36 percent of their shopping online this season — an all-time high — and that seven of the top 10 online retailers expect sales increases of at least 15 percent over last year.
Obviously, online shopping is here to stay, and the savvy shopper will use the web to compare prices, find bargains and use direct shipping to distant friends and relatives. Some online deals are hard to beat, and given the price of gas, it might be tempting to use the Internet as the shopping mall without the crowded parking lot.
Still, we urge everyone to spend some time shopping in "real time." Walk into some stores you've driven past a thousand times but never actually entered. Talk to an actual employee, face-to-face, about the products you find there. Look for some locally-made products that might have an unusual back story.
It's great to give someone the perfect gift, but it's even better when you have an interesting answer for the question, "Where on earth did you find this?"