If you visited downtown Monday afternoon, you may have noticed miniature Christmas trees along Third Street. To help get Crescent City in the holiday spirit, The Daily Triplicate in conjunction with the downtown Business Improvement District planted 20 miniature spruce trees in barrels where flowers grew during the summer. Within a few days, the spruce trees will be decorated with light strings. It's part of an effort to keep downtown attractive - and with the Holiday Parade fast approaching, to get everyone in the spirit of the season.

We hope it inspires other downtown businesses to decorate their storefronts and windows in time for the parade, scheduled for the post-Thanksgiving weekend.

While there are vacant storefronts, downtown does offer an array of retail goods and services. For Christmas or Hanukkah, you can buy gifts of jewelry, kitchen utensils, wine, books, musical instruments, stuffed animals, clothes, antiques, savings bonds and much more. You can take a break over coffee and sweets or enjoy lunch at a number of different restaurants and coffee houses.

Downtown businesses know they've got unique, quality products that can keep customers coming back. The problem is getting more people to stop in the retail district and take gander. To downtown's credit, it has hosted a number of festivals and special events, most recently a Halloween trick-or-treat in which businesses gave away free candy to costumed children with their parents.

Holiday decorations are a great way to attract people to a retail district. Indeed, for many years Macy's in Chicago put on such fantastic Christmas displays that people came downtown just to look at the animated store windows. There's no reason Crescent City's storefronts and streetscapes can't collectively have the same kind of pulling power.

Bottom line: Bring more people downtown, and businesses there become profitable. And the more financially vibrant a retail area, the greater the chance that vacant stores will fill.

To reach that point, downtown businesses - retail and offices alike - need to keep promoting themselves. This holiday season is a good time to make an even bigger effort. We hope our spruce trees show our commitment to this goal and inspire others to get into the spirit.