At a time when some retail giants are scaling back and closing stores – while others are packing up shop forever – Mount Shasta businesses are doing what they can to encourage residents to shop locally this holiday season.
Nationally, retail chains are attempting to up their holiday sales; offering deep price cuts to lure shoppers through their doors.
Several large retail chains have recently announced that they’ll be closing some of their lower-performing stores – among them GAP, Eddie Bauer, Lane Bryant, JC Penney, Foot Locker, Zales, and even the familiar Home Depot. Other chains, including Linens n’ Things, Sharper Image, Wickes Furniture, and Wilson Leather are scheduled to pack up and close their stores at all locations.
To help stimulate business on a local level, several of Mount Shasta’s downtown businesses took part in a “Town-Wide Open House” on Thursday. Stores stayed open until 7 p.m., most of them offering special sales and discounts. At each store, shoppers entered their name in a drawing for a $500 gift certificate, which can be used at any of the 27 participating businesses.
Jamie Coleman, a member of the Mount Shasta Chamber of Commerce and the owner of Petals for the past 8 years, suggested and organized the event.
“The idea was to help promote all [the Mount Shasta businesses]... and spread the wealth, so that customers could see all that’s offered right in their own backyard,” Coleman said. “The evening seemed successful.  Everyone’s overall response was positive... it had customers going into different shops, getting out of their comfort zones.”
Indeed, Mount Shasta Boulevard was busy Thursday evening with shoppers buzzing from store to store as they browsed the sales and entered their name into the gift certificate drawing.
The winner, Mount Shasta local Carole Costanzo, put her name in at only one store. “We usually do shop locally,” she said. “This is such a gift.”
While no retailers in Mount Shasta have had to close due to the current economic situation, they have begun to feel the pinch.
“This is definitely the most challenging year I’ve ever had,” Coleman said.
While employment in retail sales in Siskiyou County has decreased by 1.1% since last year at this time, other economic sectors are faring much worse, according to the latest statistics from the Employment Development Department of California. State government workers show an overwhelming 13% decrease in employment, and those employed in ‘financial activities’ have seen a 10.9% decrease since October 2007.
In terms of total unemployment, Siskiyou County is currently ranked 39 out of the 58 counties in California, with a rate of 9.4%. While this number is much higher than in years previous, it seems relatively small  when compared to Imperial County – located in the southern-most end of the state – which has a staggering 21,700 people out of a job, with a total unemployment rate of 26.7%.
As spending drops across the nation, local businesses are bracing themselves for what’s yet to come. “We’re trying to be proactive,” said Coleman, “not just sit around and wait.”
“During tough times, you have a choice,” said newly-elected Mount Shasta City Councilor Katrina Howard. “[Businesses] can either isolate themselves, or reach out and band together. I’d like to see the latter happen [here in Mount Shasta.]”
Howard, who is the director of the Woodsman, said despite the current economic situation, she is keeping a positive attitude. “It’s all a matter of perspective,” she said. “If the community works as a team, we’ll be able to weather the storm.”