The holiday shopping season is well underway, but whether it's now or even as late as Christmas Eve, shopping local may be the way to go.

Ocean County Freeholder Joe Vicari says it's not only a driver for the economy and boost to businesses, shopping local can also provide security and protection nearby.

"We have some fantastic deals in Ocean County and you get protected by the Division of Consumer Affairs (732-929-2105), which is located on Hooper Avenue, and protected against things such as fraud and any kind of mislabeling that may take place," Vicari said.

He says that buying locally is also very convenient for shoppers both in the stores and on the roads.

"You can actually see the item and take it home with you," Vicari said. "Many times when people buy things online it arrives late and you have to pay shipping and handling."

When you buy in person it provides an extra boost to the economy as well.

"We have two outstanding malls in Ocean County, the Ocean County Mall and the Jackson Outlets where they have fantastic buys all year but especially during the holiday season," Vicari said.

You would also be supporting an economy, by shopping locally, that's struggled a bit of late with the closing of stores including Sears in the Ocean County Mall.

"When I passed by some retailer businesses, this season is either going to make or break them," Vicari said. "It's very important to not only give them encouragement but other franchises are looking at Ocean County to invest money and if we have a good season this year it makes it easier for us to market Ocean County by saying that people have money and want to spend it in Ocean County."

Your support of local businesses also helps them continue to grow and thrive.

"The more money they make, the more money they can put into improvements and upgrading their properties," Vicari said.

In turn, support of these local businesses allows them to open up more jobs to people who are in need of financial support during the holidays.

"Many extra people are employed during the holiday season and that extra money means a great deal to them," Vicari said.

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