The Lawton Constitution’s “Shop Local. Shop Strong.” campaign kicks off this week at participating merchants, helped along by major sponsors, all designed to encourage spending dollars where they’ll do the most good — in local businesses.

Participants who upload a photo of themselves shopping in a locally-owned business in southwest Oklahoma will have the opportunity to win weekly prizes. Random winners, chosen weekly, will receive a $25 gift certificate, good at one of the participating merchants, and be eligible for a grand prize basket worth $500 at the conclusion of the contest. The first drawing will be Nov. 25 and winners will be notified by email.

To find the contest, click on the “Shop Local” button on the swoknews.com home page if you’re on a computer, or at the bottom of the navigation bar if you’re on a mobile device.

“It’s no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic caused a seismic shift in how we shop,” said David Stringer, publisher of The Constitution. “And while that may have been necessary at the outset, those shifts will probably make this the most difficult holiday season ever for local stores. If you shop online, you’ll pay city sales tax, and that helps things, but not as much as walking into a store that employs people locally.”

Shopping locally means more than just spending money, which circulates around town.

“It means that I am associated and being friends with people that have been brought up in Lawton, are brought up in Oklahoma, are brought up in this town,” said Larry Massad, owner of Massad’s Gifts in Lawton. “This Christmas season is going to be difficult. We don’t know what to expect. But we know that each and every one of us are trying to do the best we can.”

The money you spend at locally-owned businesses not helps that business owner, it also helps the entire community.

“The most important part of shopping local is supporting the sales tax collection in Lawton. That’s what fixes the roads, that’s what pays for our firefighters, our police and our city to function,” said Kris Gill, owner of Gill’s Frame Shop.

The “Shop Local. Shop Strong.” campaign this year is due to the unprecedented cooperation of business and media entities across southwest Oklahoma. The print section will also publish in the Elgin Chronicle, Southwest Business Ledger, the Walters Herald, Fort Sill Tribune, Altus Times, Frederick Leader and Mangum Star, as well as The Constitution, all aimed at keeping local dollars local. Retail merchants were supported in this effort by a number of “corporate” sponsors that also understand the importance of shopping locally. A list of those sponsors will be featured in the kickoff section this Thursday, as well as ads throughout the shopping season.

“Shopping local is very important to us,” said Darren Medders, owner of Darby’s Furniture. “It’s the lifeblood of the community. We have two stores, both in small communities that feed and support 18 families and employees, so it’s extremely important for people to shop local.”

Participating businesses and sponsors will be displaying banners, signs, window decals and T-shirts, all themed to promote “Shop Local. Shop Strong.”

Many business leaders participated in a public service campaign produced by The Lawton Constitution to help remind shoppers about the importance of shopping locally. That video can be found at https://cutt.ly/shoplocalswok

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