Local shopkeepers offer incentives for shoppers

December 3, 2009 12:15:33 AM PST
The holiday shopping season can make or break a small business, especially after what this recession has put them through. That's why a number of Bay Area cities are offering incentives to get you to buy local.

The city of Los Altos isn't shying away from an obvious problem. The down economy is affecting local merchants and business is down 20 percent. Now the city is facing the issue head on.

They're offering free, all day parking, in Downtown's 10 plazas until the end of the year.

"I much prefer having to park my car, knowing its left there, and not have to worry about looking at my watch," said Sharon Barkoff, a Los Altos Hills resident.

The goal is to eliminate any obstacle that might tempt shoppers to leave.

Right now, if you stay longer than three hours you'll get a $54 parking ticket, but the city says only $27 stays local and so the financial loss because of this program really isn't really that great.

"What we're trying to do is get our revenue aligned with good practices and that means good, strong retail districts will generate their own revenue," said Anne Stedler with the Los Altos Economic Development Department.

"I think it's wonderful if they're trying to support the businesses because we support them with our taxes," said Dennis Ronberg from Linden Tree Children's Recordings & Books.

In Oakland, city leaders are also pushing consumers to buy local. They unveiled a new website, OaklandGrown.org, where shoppers can find links to local vendors.

And even the heart of Bay Area shopping is hurting for business. In San Francisco's Union Square, the merchants association expects sales to drop 1 percent this year. And on Black Friday, BART had the lowest number of riders to Union Square in four years.

Business owners across the bay are hoping small changes will lead to big pay off.


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