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Local businesses hope customers stay local, buy local

With the holiday shopping season almost in full swing, local businesses are working hard, and hoping, customers stay and buy locally

Sun Advocate reporter

As the holiday season stands ever so close but still is a few days from actually arriving, shoppers are preparing ahead of time. Jotting down notes and searching for every available detail one can find about special sales, store operating hours and what the hottest items are for sale this year, potential shoppers are busy. Some people are preparing to wait hours in long lines, just hoping to get the most popular items and say they are one of the first to do so.

Needless to say, this time of the year is when the shopper has a near endless amount of choices to make on gifts and the places they can go to purchase them.

But while much of the talk is about customers and their wants, desires and needs, how do businesses handle a time of the year like this? For many Price and Carbon County businesses this is a time of the year where hard work and perseverance can pay off.

Local businesses have already been hard at work. They have been prepping special sales, extending store hours and doing everything they can to get attention focused on their business.

While Price and the surround areas may be considered small, there is at least one of every type of store or business for items such as clothing, hardware, shoes, flowers, furniture, appliances, jewelry and more. But with the bigger areas on the Wasatch Front including Salt Lake City and Provo, many local businesses have to fight the perception that going north for items is the only option.

Some local businesses said they notice that customers sometimes look up north for what they need before looking to purchase items on a local basis.

"A lot of people look outside the area first, especially up north," said Paul Hoffman, manager and part owner of Hard Hat. "I also think there is a misconception that people can get better deals up there compared to getting deals here."

Clientele is one of the main factors in a business succeeding locally. Many businesses said getting repeat customers over the years is what helps keep them going. But the internet and the advertising blitz bigger businesses can put out into the general public can be hard to beat.

For example a family may plan out a trip to visit a place such as Salt Lake City or Provo. While there they may visit family, go to doctors appointments and eat a meal at a restaurant. But they also may plan a trip to one of the malls and visit one of the big box stores since they are in the area before heading back home.

While the deals locally may be the same or just a little different from deals elsewhere, local business owners said they are doing everything they can including working to match or beat a competitor's price.

With dates like Black Friday on the day after Thanksgiving, local businesses are trying new ideas, seeing what can be done to help drive sales and getting local customers to come out in large numbers.

"You never know how things will work out until you try something," said Wayne Clausing, manager of Sutherlands.

The Internet

One factor that has affected many local businesses is the internet. With the simple action of a few clicks on a mouse, an item can be ordered, shipped and delivered to the person within a short period of time. It's hard for a local business to match the ease of purchasing something over the internet.

"The internet has had a huge impact on the businesses," said Kevin Norried, owner of Athlete's Foot.

In talks with customers, some businesses owners say customers are not shy about letting them know about what types of prices were found on the internet and where an item can be purchased other than in town.

"People have told me they have looked on the internet before coming in to the store," said Jodi Liin, owner and manager of Warehouse Direct Furniture. "Prices are what is driving everything right now."

But while the internet can provide a fast method of purchasing an item, it still has a hard time matching a customer walking into a business and seeing an item up close and personal before buying it.

"Buying something online is not the same as looking at it in the store. You can see photos online but you cannot touch or sit down on a piece of furniture when buying through the internet," said Liin.

Another point local businesses try to make when competing against the internet is making sure customers realize they are local. Should something break down or malfunction, a local business has the ability to provide service whereas the internet may require going through different channels including calling customer support.

The economy

Businesses, much like residents in the community, are affected by the economy on a daily basis. When people are consistently buying goods from local businesses, it can have a ripple affect that is felt all over Carbon County. The revenues from sales taxes goes back into the community and helps schools, city services and the area in general, according to Dolores Roberts, an Americorp VISTA member and a business outreach specialist with the Business Expansion and Retention program (BEAR).

"Any money spent here helps the local economy in a lot of different ways," said Roberts.

In addition to managing Sutherlands, Clausing currently serves as the President of the Carbon County Chamber of Commerce. By buying goods and items on a local basis a person can help the community in ways they may not think about when shopping, he said.

"Sales tax revenue stays here if a person buys locally," said Clausing. "People may not think about that when they shop. The Chamber of Commerce is stressing the point of staying here and shopping locally because of how much it helps out the area. In my opinion I really think businesses have done their part of working hard to keep people shopping here."

Many in the business community say that are cautiously optimistic about the holiday season and what it will bring to their businesses.

"We're very excited about the upcoming season," said Clausing. Last November was one of the best months in terms of sales that Sutherlands has ever experienced, he said.

Other than the holiday shopping season, some local business owners and managers said other times where sales are big includes back to school shopping, during the spring when people get their tax returns from the government and holidays such as Valentine's Day.

"We're going to be buying a lot of merchandise for the store for this holiday season," said Norried.

Businesses can continue to get better at knowing the needs of the community and market their business to the area, Roberts said. She said Carbon County has gotten better at marketing to the community over the past few years and is offering more variety with new businesses moving in.

"Advertising helps people know what's available out there," said Roberts. "Getting your name out there is a major thing that helps a business and word of mouth is very big around here."

While the recession may have officially ended, many people are still watching what they spend compared to years back.

"People are still being careful with their money in this economy," said Roberts. "But I think people will spend a little more this year compared to last year."

"I have been asking people for a long time to keep shopping locally for what they need," said Norried. "I know a lot of businesses, including mine, are doing everything we can to get people in the area to shop locally."

But while there is a push to get people to shop local as much as possible, Norried said he understands that people will always go out of the area for some things.

"It's going to happen though. Local people are not going to buy everything they need here," he said.

While there is only so much local businesses can do to counteract customers going to businesses upstate, Clausing said the business community has worked hard in promoting shopping local and supporting the community.

"In my opinion I really think businesses have done their part of working hard to keep people shopping here," Clausing said. "Our main primary focus has been to get as many people to shop locally and I think we've all done a good job stressing that to the community."

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