The holiday shopping season is often make-or-break time for local merchants, perhaps never so much as this year, as retailers struggle to recover from a dismal summer tourist season curtailed by wildfire smoke. The city of Ashland’s financial contributions to that effort are welcome and appropriate.
The city is providing free parking in the Hargadine parking structure on Saturdays and Sundays through the end of the year, eliminating one common complaint that encourages shoppers to spend their money online: Going downtown to shop gets expensive if you have to pay to park along with the hassle of finding a space and negotiating the crowds.
City Administrator Kelly Madding says economic development funds will cover the estimated $3,600 in parking revenue lost for the month. That’s an entirely appropriate way to spend a little economic development money to help support the local economy.
Beyond the free parking, the city chipped in $10,000 to the Ashland Chamber of Commerce’s annual coupon book promotion. The additional money allowed the Chamber to distribute 28,000 books, up from 8,500 last year, and Madding says anecdotal evidence suggests the additional books are luring more shoppers.
This summer’s smoke has already taken its toll, with the Ashland Outdoor Store closing as a direct result of lost sales from the poor air quality.
The city’s contributions are important, but even more vital is the need for local residents to keep their dollars local as much as possible, not just because of summer smoke and not just at Christmas time.