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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!


Comments

  • Crystal
    March 20, 2009

    This article is really great and very inspiring! Our organization, Shopseen.com, supports this mentality exactly! We are a company founded on the principles of helping to support the independent shop owners that offer unique and original merchandise. Our website also helps shoppers find those individualized pieces that express their personality. Check us out at Shopseen.com and see what we’re all about!

  • Robin
    March 22, 2009

    I agree with your article. I live in a small town close to NYC. I am very concerned that if our neighbors don’t continue to shop in town many of the retailers and restaurants will go out of business. I always shop locally if possible. I also try to walk to town as well.

    We have a few for rent signs in town at the moment. Our most recent vacant store was a small children’s boutique. I was sad to see the store with a for rent sign. They had such beautiful merchandise. There are so many families in town, I thought for sure we would be able to keep this store in business. A lot of the store owners are residents of our community.

    So I agree..shop locally!!
    Robin

  • Belle
    March 24, 2009

    Exactly! We feature many local designers among our jewelry from around the world. Even our packaging is entirely comprised of Made in the USA branded products. At Deco Belle Inc., we frequent local small businesses to promote other entrpeneurs like ourselves. Often they are the best source for a pulse on the retail markets. Also, we learn from each other in the ways of experiences with customer service, vendor relationships and so forth. Thank you for sharing such an educational article.

  • Stacey
    April 1, 2009

    Your article is inspiring! My mother and I design and create a line of handbags, totes, travel pillows and much more that we sell at wholesale. Our next goal is to have our items featured in small boutiques which unfortunatelly takes a lot of cold calling since we do not have a sales person that can travel.
    In our small town in Wisconsin there is also a small building for rent on our main street which I would love to rent and have some of the same ideas you have listed. Except all items would be locally made. Thank you for the inspiration!
    Yvonne Totes
    takeatote.com

  • Gitasan
    April 2, 2009

    I hope that the trend or crazy of shopping locally for food and produce will spill over into all aspects of our lives. It is such a sad sight to see small local business having to close shop because of the big box retailers coming in and taking over.

    If given the choice I would rather pay a bit extra to help support the local business. We are all hoping to live the American dream!

    Thanks for all your great articles…keep them coming.

  • Lebow
    July 8, 2009

    I agree, but I’m surprised there no mention of more serious efforts like dedicated buy local and indie campaigns, The American Independent Business Alliance has many ready-to-use materials like posters (which I display and have started several great discussions), window decals and seems to have extensive support for folks looking to work with other indies in their community. Their site is http://www.AMIBA.net

  • Jatin Patro
    August 29, 2010

    While everybody is talking about promoting local shopping, I have done what should’ve been done long ago… I’ve created an online marketplace like Amazon that actually lets people buy and sell locally with local pickup and local delivery. It has a scheduler such that sellers can actually “schedule” their product’s local availability, rather than simply list them for shipping. To top it all, I’m giving it to all to try for absolutely FREE! I launched http://www.sharedmall.com on Aug 15, 2010, so it is relatively unknown at this time. It’s a gem of an opportunity even for journalists to jump on this story.

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