Promoting Independent Stores and Shopping Local
It’s hard enough to battle your racks against big box retailers such as Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s, but in the recent wave of our recession, discount retailers are also making a mark – and a large mark at that – with savvy, boutique influenced shoppers. It’s not uncommon to hear a group of ladies bragging about their recent Michael by Michael Kors purchase from TJ Maxx or Tory Burch shirt from Loehman’s. Two years ago, however, they would have been bragging about their purchases from an actual boutique – maybe even your boutique. Shoppers today, though, are grabbing outrageously insane deals at discount stores from brand names that they feel good about it. With no disrespect to The Limited or Jones New York, the anty has upped when it comes to what you can find at discount stores and shoppers are latching on.
So what can you do as an independent boutique to fight this trend? To start, you need to acknowledge it and accept it. So many boutique owners try and fight the reality of their customer’s habits, believing “they” will be the exception. However in our economy today, there are very few exceptions anymore. Even affluent shoppers with millions in the bank are changing their shopping strategies. The next step for you to do is react so that your customers remember why shopping with you is also to their advantage.
Support The Community & Small Businesses
There are some great local organizations within towns and cities across the country that support shopping local. If your community doesn’t have one, consider being the first to encourage this trend and talk with other small business owners to help you do this. The advantages of shopping local that need to be communicated with your customers include:
1. Protect Local Character & Prosperity – Every neighborhood tells a story. What’s yours? Remind your community of this story – history and present – and in doing so, remind your customers that among the only ways for your community to thrive is to support local businesses.
2. Linking Everyone Together – Local businesses do more than just sell products or services. They link people together, even customers themselves. Consider how your business can support your community by hosting community sponsored events, bringing neighbors together for a purpose, and more. If your business becomes a destination place for others, it will also become a destination to shop.
3. Increase Economic Situation – Did you know that dollars spent locally versus at national chains increase your communities wealth three times more than if spent elsewhere? By spending locally, you are investing in community jobs, local taxes, neighborhood improvement and community development.
4. Supporting Local Entrepreneurs – You don’t have to own a store to support a store. Remind customers that businesses built from entrepreneurs fuel the American economic crisis in a great way. They can do their part by shopping at them! As a business owner, you can support this, as well, by buying American made product and when possibly, locally made product. If you do this, make sure your customers know this, as well! Even if your whole store can’t support this trend, dedicate at least a section to it. Then promote it and sell it!
5. Product Diversity – Independent stores tend to have more unique products that chain stores or discount stores. Remind your customers of this. So what if they can get Tory Burch for 50% off regular price at Loehman’s? That’s NOT the point they should be caring about. Make them remember that shopping local gives them access to some unique, different, more limited edition product assortments while also supporting their community.
Talk To Your Shoppers & Lost Customers
It takes more than just understanding that your customers are shopping elsewhere to improve it. You need to communicate with your customers about why you care enough to tell them you need their support. A few ideas as to how to do this includes:
1. Arrange a Neighborhood Local Shopping Event – Get other stores together and promote a local shopping event. During your promotions, remind customers of all the reasons why shopping local is so important. Let them know that you know it can be tempting not to buy local but that you need their support for the entire community’s sake. Get your local radio stations, television stations, and papers to help create a buzz for this.
2. Promote Through Display – Speak to your customers by listing the advantages of shopping local in your store front window. Get other local business owners to list the same advantages. Create your own pros and cons and “quietly” remind your customers of this by visibly placing them in a high traffic area both in your store and outside of your store.
3. Create a Buzz – Get your local press outlets to share in your support by creating news worthy stories to talk about shopping local and supporting local businesses! Newspapers, local magazines, community papers, local television stations and more are always on the look out for great stories to tell. This is certainly one of them! Talk to them to make this happen!
The reality is that independent stores are closing their doors across the country. We hear about big corporate buy outs and saving American corporate businesses all the time on the news, but what about us little guys and gals? Speak up rather than sit back to at least try and communicate this important message in your neighborhood. We are all in this together, but unfortunately many of us are closing our doors still.
What’s your story? We’d love to hear from you in the comment section below!