1117 retail

JIM COOK/DOTHAN EAGLE

Melissa Warnke, of the Alabama Retail Association, discusses the organization's #BabyItsSoldInside campaign Thursday. Houston County Commission Chairman Mark Culver, right, looks on.

The holiday season is make-or-break for many retailers, and local merchants are encouraging Dothan residents to spend their dollars here.

Representatives of the Alabama Retail Association joined local business leaders to host a “Shop Alabama for the Holidays” event at downtown retailer Naomi and Olive Thursday. Alabama Retail Association staffers are traveling the state to promote local shopping during the holidays.

Retail is a key component of local economies, creating jobs and generating tax revenue for municipal governments, said Melissa Warnke, manager of communications and engagement for the Alabama Retail Association.

Warnke said it’s important for local residents to support their friends and neighbors with their holiday shopping dollars. The Alabama Retail Association is promoting the #BabyItsSoldInside hashtag on social media to promote local shopping.

Although online shopping has cut into brick-and-mortar store retail in recent years, in-store sales still dominate retail as some consumers prefer the personalized experience and the chance to thoroughly inspect merchandise before making a purchase, Warnke said.

Christy Keaton and her husband Johnny are the proprietors of Naomi and Olive. Keaton said she started the business to help foster the customer-focused, highly personalized downtown retail environment found in other cities in the area. She’s been pleased with local response to her business and is proud of her contribution to the local economy.

“You’re not just supporting me locally; you’re supporting a lot of local artists,” she said.

Houston County is a retail powerhouse for Alabama. Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce President Matt Parker said the county has about $20,000 per capita in retail sales each year. The state average is $12,000 per capita.

Parker estimated that 20 percent of the local workforce is employed in the retail sector.

Dothan City Commissioner David Crutchfield said he’s been impressed by how strong the local economy is.

“We had over 7,000 business licenses issued this year,” he said.

Local retailers and their payment of sales taxes were the backbone of municipal governments’ ability to provide services for their residents, said Houston County Commission Chairman Mark Culver.

“Stay home and shop, and stay off that computer,” he said.

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