Each year, downtown Gainesville pulls out the stops to attract shoppers to its historic district.

This effort is especially obvious during the holiday season when area merchants dress their stores with sights designed to dazzle.

Most people agree shopping locally is a good idea.

Getting them to do it consistently is another thing.

A group of downtown Gainesville merchants and other business owners are determined to attract customers to historic Gainesville with promotions including the popular Victorian Stroll weekend Dec. 11-12.

They also point out the benefits of shopping locally.

The 3/50 project is one such effort.

“The 3/50 project is a program put together to raise awareness of how dollars are spent in local communities. Shopping locally generates a lot more tax dollars (than shopping large retailers),” said Paige Davidson owner of Paige Davidson Studio/Cahoots Handbags.

The 3/50 project challenges residents to consider what three independently owned businesses they would miss if these businesses suddenly closed.

Project organizers also say if half the employed population spent $50 each month in locally owned independent businesses, the sales would generate $42.6 billion in revenue.

Advocates for shopping locally say for every $100 spend in an independently owned store, $68 is returned to the community in the form of taxes, payroll and other expenditures.

Spend that same $100 in a national chain store and only $43 stays in the community.

And dollars spent online bring no tax revenue back to a community.

Besides helping support cities through tax dollars, shopping locally has other benefits, Davidson said.

“Many of our products are handmade and one-of-a-kind. We have things that are special,” she said.

Good service is another perk for customers of independently owned businesses.

“We can help customers make their selections and have the items wrapped. Many of us (local merchants) also carry packages out to the car for our customers,” she noted.

Davidson said she’s also noticed many downtown shops offer the same brand name products found in larger cities.

“In New York, I often see the same (products) we offer. People just don’t realize the little gems that are here. For example, (shoppers) can find Alfred Angelo bridesmaid gowns at Chapman’s,” she said.

While many shoppers stood in long lines at huge retail stores during Black Friday sales, Davidson said the pace was slightly different and much friendlier at her shop where customers nibbled cup cakes and other snacks while making their selections.

She also reported business was brisk.

“Yesterday was the biggest day ever in the store. It was crazy. At one point, we had 40 customers,” she said.

Look for a story on the Victorian Stroll weekend and other local holiday events in next week’s edition of the Register.

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