As the holiday season bears down upon us, the region's retail community is bracing for what will — or won't — occur.

Will local residents spend their dollars with local merchants? Or, will they shop online, from catalogues, at national retailers, or head to the big city for holiday gift shopping in an urban ambiance? The options are many; the competition fierce.

I can't claim I never shop online. The convenience of shopping while sitting on the couch with my laptop is hard to beat some days.

I do, though, try to limit my purchases to those items unavailable locally. Since a greater portion of my dollar spent with local merchants will stay in this community, it serves to strengthen businesses in a productive cycle.

What I DON'T get by holiday shopping from my home is the lights, store decorations, the merriment, and the exchange of holiday greetings. What I lose is the human experience of sharing holiday excitement with others. I enjoy that, and I can't imagine I'm the only one who does.

What then, can local retailers do, to provide that atmosphere many holiday shoppers seek, such as crisp air (Okay, rain is admittedly spirit-dampening occasionally), twinkling lights, and streets filled with shoppers trading tidings of comfort and joy?

In our feature article this month written by Greg Cohen, we hear from experts and downtown leaders. With the help of a paid downtown coordinator, Seaside's light shines this time of year, with stores open later, and promotions and events to attract locals in search of good cheer.

Astoria and Cannon Beach, without benefit of a paid staffer, find merchants dance to the tune of their individual drummers: Some stay open late, some don't, and organized events are minimal. But downtown Astoria, resplendent in volunteer-provided holiday lighting, beckons diners, and some shops remain open late.

I understand shoppers don't want to be held hostage to the concept of local shopping, but hey, give it a try. Maybe you'll find the spirit of the holiday season you've been yearning for since the days of childhood wonder and awe — and give a local business a boost at the same time. Happy shopping!

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