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Shop Around: Shop Proud, Shop Columbia

Area merchants launch campaign urging residents to do business with local retailers

Shoppers can order just about anything they need these days off the Internet. But should they?

Columbia-area merchants are urging residents to shop local in a new campaign launching today designed to help businesses struggling during the worst recession in 80 years. It also aims to bolster the amount of tax dollars kept in the region for local services.

The alliance of merchant organizations says you can find just about everything you need or want right here in the capital city.

"It's the awareness factor," said Michael Arket, who owns Tranquil Moments Day Spa on Queen Street and is a member of the Shop Proud, Shop Columbia coalition.

Over the next few weeks, members will be giving out stickers, post cards, bags and other items to prod Columbia residents to think before they shop.

Organizers claim:

- For every $100 spent in locally owned independent stores, $68 returns to the community.

- The same money spent at national chain store in the community would keep $43 local.

- Spending the money in another city or online has no benefit for the community.

"It just makes a lot of sense," Columbia Mayor Bob Coble said.

Keeping your money in Columbia has a ripple effect that helps keep the economy healthy, Coble said.

But a campaign like this is about more than just keeping tax dollars in the community, said Marianne Bickle, professor of retailing at the University of South Carolina.

A shop local campaign helps maintain consumer confidence and helps local retailers keep their doors open, she said.

It tells customers, "Yes, we will be here for the long haul," Bickle said.

Internet shopping has a convenience factor. But shopping in a local store has other benefits, Bickle said, including instant gratification, being able to touch the product you want to buy and having a social experience.

"Why not help your community," she said. "I live there, I shop there."

Food Lion remodels

Notice a new look at your local Food Lion? That's on purpose.

The grocery chain recently remodeled 31 stores in the Columbia and Florence areas as part of a companywide renewal effort.

The "Take a Fresh Look" campaign is designed to give the stores the atmosphere of a neighborhood marketplace, with new signs, decor and lighting. The remodels also give the stores room for a greater selection of products.

The produce, meats, deli/bakery and organic departments have been expanded, and there is a larger selection of beer and wine offerings.

Shop shorts

- JoS. A. Bank will be the newest tenant in Trenholm Plaza, on Forest Drive at Trenholm Road. The men's clothier will be located next to the Fresh Market and hopes to open in time for the holiday shopping season. The national chain also has a store in Village at Sandhill in Northeast Richland.

- Wild Birds Unlimited has been on Forest Drive near Beltline Boulevard for nearly 16 years. But starting Wednesday, you'll find it instead in the Forest Park Shopping Center, 4711 Forest Drive, near Piggly Wiggly.

- The Nifty Gifty, 115 Andrew Corley Road, Lexington, recently celebrated five years in business. The store will host Elf Mania noon to 2 p.m. Oct. 16, with a book signing by Carol Aebersold, author of "Elf on the Shelf."