When Target last year announced it will close a store in Hastings, Minn., residents there started a petition in hopes of keeping the store open.

Another petition started last year in Fergus Falls, Minn., after the Target there was slated to close. The petition, titled “Keep Target Fergus Falls Open!” quickly generated more than 6,000 signatures.

In 2017, residents in Thief River Falls, Minn., started a petition to keep open the J.C. Penney store after that company announced its plan to close more than 100 stores nationwide.

These are just relatively local examples. It would be easy to expand our search outward and find hundreds of similar stories nationwide, as stunned shoppers realize a favorite store is closing during this so-called “retail apocalypse.”

The Gap is the latest in Grand Forks to announce it soon will be closing, prompting many social-media comments that lament the loss. Not long ago, the local Bed Bath & Beyond announced it is closing. And before that, it was Pier 1, Kmart, Shopko, Sears and Macy’s, among others.

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And one more thing: Ever notice how no stores seem to be coming in to fill these vacancies?

Greater Grand Forks must realize that the only way to salvage the remaining retail stores – whether national box stores or local retailers -- is to frequent them and spend money there.

Petitions after the fact will not help. Actually, they are disingenuous and slathered in irony, since they often attract thousands of people who sign their name but obviously rarely shopped at those stores in the past. After all, if thousands of people truly were committed to shopping locally, would so many retailers be closing.

Our advice? Stop with the petitions and start shopping in your town. Nothing – literally nothing – will save these stores once the decision has been made to close them.

So this holiday season, consider shopping local. Also, don’t forget to “attend local” – the many events that come through Grand Forks that deserve local patronage and will never return without it.

Our city is blessed with two grand event centers and a handful of other venues that bring in events, concerts and culture. These days, there is plenty to do in Grand Forks, but if we don’t attend local, it’s not inconceivable that concerts and other opportunities will dry up too.

The airport on the edge of town? Patronage there can ensure more flights and more convenience in the future.

Located two hours from Winnipeg, one hour from Fargo and five hours from the Twin Cities, Greater Grand Forks faces serious geographic pressures for shopping, for events and for travel options.

But without local support, it is impossible to maintain it all. And in the future, when stores or flights or events announce they are leaving, no amount of petition signatures or after-the-fact sadness will bring them back.

So this holiday season, please, think about it: Shop local. Fly local. Attend local.