Yakima County and lower valley holiday shoppers are encouraged to safely patronize small and local brick-and-mortar businesses which may be open during the latest COVID-19 restrictions or purchase their local products online.

Community merchants require our support to remain in business and feed and take care of their families. While the pandemic has made in person shopping difficult for most of us, small businesses are struggling, and it is important to demonstrate our united effort in keeping with the seasonal spirit to spend money with meaning and purpose.

Retailers in Sunnyside have begun offering special incentives to inspire customers to shop local.

“Some of us are offering giveaways or small discounts for those who visit are shops,” Lori Gardner of Destination Sunnyside and French Vanilla Market owner said.

She added that social media and online retail operations is helping.

The presence of COVID‑19 will likely drive a lot more holiday shopping online and away from the personal and interactive experiences that shoppers enjoy by visiting local shops. Buying gifts online is strongly recommended as a safe method this year. In fact, shopping by computer or phone has become a normal routine for many families in recent years.

Still, while the relative ease makes for an appealing experience, especially during a global pandemic, we must remember that many local retailers are just as equipped to handle online orders as the larger chain stores.

While retail sales, property and utility taxes – which are the big three sources of city general fund revenues – have seen major dips, according to Sunnyside City Manager Martin Casey.

The senior administrator has also observed the trend in more online purchases during June and July. This has resulted in an increase in destination sales taxes coming to the city treasury, a 40% increase during the pandemic to date.

Some local retailers, including those with lengthy and successful histories, have already decided enough is enough and have shut their doors. More will likely follow if they are unable to navigate the restrictions and changes in shopping habits that have been driven by the pandemic.

When embarking upon the activity of purchase gifts for family members and loved ones during the holidays, please prioritize in supporting local merchants.

It’s all about being a good neighbor and helping to build a stronger community.

When called upon, it’s these local shops that can be counted on to offer their support and sponsorship to organizations and programs in our area.

While online giants like Amazon, Target and Walmart may be convenient and offer a better price, they are not the ones who will answer the call when FFA, 4-H or extracurricular school activity support is required.

“Getting people to shop locally is definitely needed to keep businesses open,” Grandview Mayor Gloria Mendoza.

“Our city and the chamber are doing everything we can to get people to our (virtual) tree lighting and to step into local businesses to see what they have.”

The online ceremony will commence on Friday, Dec. 4, at 6 p.m. at www.visitgrandview.com.

Patrick Shelby for the Sunnyside Sun editorial board. PShelby@sunnysidesun.com

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