Commentary: Retailers need love during shopping season

The holiday shopping season is always a critical time for businesses large and small, chain-owned and independent, warehouse and boutique. If they can make money in the fourth quarter of the year, they'll likely make it for another year.

In any year, that's a big chore, but in today's bleak economic climate the challenge is staggering, as retailers and other businesses across the country report dramatic sales declines leading up to the holiday. Their forecasts, and those of industry analysts, aren't very optimistic when it comes to Christmas shoppers.

And there's nothing worse for business at this critical time of year than being faced with a bunch of Santa's helpers who can't or won't open their purse strings to make purchases.

While all this might seem like a problem faced by retailers in other parts of the country, businesses in the Northern San Joaquin Valley also are in a fight for their survival this holiday shopping season.

"Retail is a big driver of this economy," said Doug Sweetland, economic development director at the Stanislaus Economic Development and Workforce Alliance. "There's no question this will be a critical period for business here."

To read the complete column, visit The Modesto Bee.