Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Downtown Amherst holds ‘Pack the Sack’ day

Shoppers celebrate the holiday season

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Downtown Amherst holds ‘Pack the Sack’ day

(Will Katcher/Daily Collegian)

(Will Katcher/Daily Collegian)

(Will Katcher/Daily Collegian)

(Will Katcher/Daily Collegian)

By Irina Costache, Collegian Staff

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The town of Amherst kicked off the holiday shopping season with “Pack the Sack” day on Saturday.

“Pack the Sack” day, named because shoppers receive “sacks” to pack with goods they purchase, is held annually in downtown Amherst and usually falls the day after the lighting of the Merry Maple tree. Over 30 local shops and restaurants participated, extending a 20 percent discount off of specific merchandise. The event was organized and advertised by the Amherst Business Improvement District.

“It’s a nice way for people to come downtown and get ready for the holidays and tie in thinking about shopping. Hopefully they’ll come back!” said Sarah la Cour, executive director of Amherst BID.

The advertising effort, headed by Marketing Director Ann Tweedy, used social media posts and newspaper ads to spread the word and draw shoppers into the event. The group worked for months to rally businesses and get a substantial amount to participate in the discounted shopping day.

During the day, a brass street band, Prone to Mischief, played music for the community, marching around town and stationing themselves in and outside of local businesses. Santa and helper elves also made an appearance, walking around town and interacting with shoppers.

Elke Reichelt of Clay’s, a clothing store, commented on shopper turnout, saying the business saw less shoppers this year than in previous years – “It seemed like a lot of people didn’t know about [the event]. It wasn’t as publicized like it’s been in the past, perhaps.”

Cathie Waltz, owner of Blue Marble in Amherst, however, commented that their shop did not have the same experience. Waltz noted the business had been very busy throughout the day, at times being so full that customers had to leave the store. The shop prepared for the event by taking in shipments from over 50 companies and artists, taking special care to make sure that popular items were fully in stock.

Speaking on the importance of shopping locally, Reichelt said, “It’s so important if you still want to see us around. You have to show up and shop because there’s so much competition with online shopping and larger stores that if people don’t come out and shop local, those local stores won’t be around anymore.”

“When you shop at a business that is not locally based, not locally owned, there’s only a couple of cents on every dollar that stay in the community. But when you’re shopping at a locally owned business, there’s many, many more pennies that stay in the area,” Waltz corroborated. “So when you’re supporting a local business, you’re supporting your neighbor’s family as well.”

To continue celebrating the holiday season, Amherst BID will be coordinating a free holiday concert. Held on Dec. 15 at Mercy House, the event will feature the Amherst Community Band.

Irina Costache can be reached at [email protected]

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