The holiday shopping season is upon us and as folks head out to the stores to buy gifts for friends and loved ones the New Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce is urging southcoast residents to shop local.

Chamber CEO Rick Kidder tells WBSM News that small local businesses can provide more a more personalized shopping experience while also providing a boost to the community.

"When in doubt shop local, do everything you can to support those businesses that are supporting our tax base and supporting our local economy," said Kidder "the more dollars that stay local the greater the percentage of dollars that are spent to the benefit of the local economy."

This push to shop local comes at a time when more and more consumers are choosing to make more and more of their purchases through online retailers.

While this often means using sites such as, Kidder says that local businesses are also increasing their presence in the online marketplace.

"More and more small businesses that have a brick and mortar presence are also getting themselves an online presence for sales," said Kidder "we've seen it in a number of different contexts where a number of businesses that used to be brick and mortar only have also branched into online sales in an effort to diversity their markets."

Kidder says the improving economy, with Massachusetts Department of Labor reporting a 4.8 percent unemployment rate in New Bedford, which is a 2.7 percent drop from last year, is also good news for local merchants this holiday season.

"The more people you have working, the more people you have spending and buying gifts, and of course most people are working in order to have the basics and the necessities, but I've seen, also I think, more and more folks who have rejoined the employment rolls are finding themselves also able to do some modest Christmas shopping," said Kidder.

Kidder says initiatives such as Small Business Saturday, which has been spearheaded by American Express, has done a lot to encourage shopping at locally owned businesses and he believes those businesses will see a boost in revenue as a result.