BUSINESSES in the Wimmera say the shop local message is hitting home, with many residents doing their Christmas shopping in their own towns - but more needs to be done.
Steve Hughan owns and runs the J and M Hughan nursery on Ararat's Barkly Street and said the store usually does a healthy Christmas trade.
"We do a bit in garden tools, pots, birdbaths and statues, that sort of thing," he said.
He said he wanted people to realise how important shopping locally was to the sustainability of small towns.
"I get a little bit cross when I hear of people heading off to Ballarat or Melbourne and doing all their Christmas shopping, and then they complain that there's nothing available locally," he said.
"Well, they've only got themselves to blame for that.
"If they shop locally it keeps the local economy going, more jobs, more money churning over through the community - everybody benefits.
"But when you head to Melbourne or Ballarat or somewhere else the local economy does not benefit at all.
"That can be a bit difficult to get that through to people. It's the same with people who buy their stuff online."
Zest Living is another Barkly Street shop which has been selling a large variety of homewares and other items in Ararat for 15 years, in various shop fronts.
"I think there's been more people shop locally this year in support of the town, which is good," owner LeAnne Slee said.
"Otherwise that's when things break down, isn't it? When we don't get the trade to keep us all open.
"We'll trade now straight through to Christmas eve to give people who are working a chance.
"You'll also get tourists popping in as they go through town to the Grampians.
"I think we've done well. It's nice to see local faces coming in. There is a lot of loyalty."
Ms Slee said the town had plenty for anyone living here or travelling through.
"We have got amenities and everything in the town for children," she said.
Rupanyup Living owner Claire Morgan said she felt like it had been a big year for people shopping locally and had noticed a growth in sales for her brownies with repeat customers online and in store.
"People who have lived here or travelled through here often order things for themselves or family and friends," she said.
Mrs Morgan, who started her businesses to promote Rupanyup and its produce, said she had adopted the mantra that "local was lovely" and practiced what she preached in buying from fellow Wimmera businesses.
She said she was disappointed to hear there had been a high proportion of packages being sent in from outside the region ahead of the Christmas period.
"That's disappointing to me," she said. "You need to realise what's going on around you and get out and explore.
"It's very important that people support local businesses because if they don't they can't be sustained," she said.
Wimmera Outdoors owner and managing director Gary Jelly said the foot traffic in his Horsham store had been good and had extended opening hours over the Christmas period.
"It gives more opportunities for people to purchase something local," he said.
Mr Jelly said his business was one of the last to cease trading as part of late-night shopping on a Friday in Horsham and was mindful of the risk to the local economy of losing business to online shopping.
"We don't want to end up like Rainbow or Jeparit," he said. "Whether a store is big or small it is great for local to see bricks and mortar shops where they live."
However, trade was a little slower to pick up at Chisholm Hi-Fi and TV Centre.
"If it's going to happen it's going to be quite late in rush terms," owner Jeff Allan said.
"Maybe people are becoming more cautious too; who knows if they are as spending as much as they used to. I'm sure there are a few issues at play."
Mr Allan will keep the store open on Christmas Eve.
"You just never know. Some people leave it to the last and don't have ideas. But there's always going to be a degree of (people going out of town to shop).
"Country people come to town and the people here go to the bigger centres - that's happened for a long time.
"We're finding a lot of the older ones will try and make sure they stay and buy local because they realise the future depends on support. But to a lot of people - nah, if they can save a dollar that's all they care about."
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