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Shop the Blocks, 11/15

Hunter Long performs for shoppers at Francie and Finch Bookshop in downtown Lincoln on Thursday during the annual Shop the Blocks event.

Jim Otto joked Thursday that he was wearing shoes from the Lincoln Running Company, a tie from Gary Michaels Clothiers and cuff links from Wright's Jewelers.

His point: It's important to shop locally.

Otto, president of the Nebraska Retail Federation, and several other business owners and officials gathered Thursday at The Bike Rack at 3321 Pioneers Blvd. to kick off the holiday shopping season and encourage Lincolnites to hit their local retailers.

Jim Carveth, who owns The Bike Rack, said people have hundreds and even thousands of choices of where to shop.

"But there are a lot of choices right here in Lincoln," said Carveth, who has owned The Bike Rack, with locations in Lincoln and Omaha, for nearly 30 years.

A National Retail Federation survey found that the average person plans to spend just over $1,000 on holiday gifts and items this year, up about 4 percent from last year.

Local retailers capturing some of those dollars helps to boost local employment and sales tax collections, said City Council Chairman Bennie Shobe.

The city is promoting a number of organized shopping events meant to promote small, local businesses, starting with the Downtown Lincoln Association's Shop the Blocks held Thursday night.

Todd Ogden, deputy director of the Downtown Lincoln Association, said this is the 11th Shop the Blocks, and last year's event went over the $500,000 mark for cumulative sales.

"Local business is the true heart of downtown Lincoln," Ogden said.

In addition to Shop the Blocks, upcoming local shopping events are:

* Small Business Saturday, which takes place on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, which is Nov. 24. Last year, shoppers spent $13 billion nationwide at small businesses on Small Business Saturday, according to American Express and the National Federation of Independent Business.

* Haymarket Unwrapped, which is Dec. 8. This will be the fourth year for the event, which is sponsored by the DLA and Lincoln Haymarket Development Corp. Shops in the Haymarket will be open until 6 p.m. that day, and events include a reindeer petting exhibit and a pedicab Santa sleigh.

Also, in conjunction with Small Business Saturday, several downtown fitness-oriented businesses are offering opportunities to exercise as part of Shop Small/Sweat Big. The Lincoln Running Company is hosting a group run at 7 a.m., while the downtown YMCA, Lotus House of Yoga and Fly — A Fitness Revolution are all offering free fitness classes.

Photos from Thursday's Shop the Blocks

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.

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Business editor/reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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