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The Business View – November 2014
The Importance of Shopping Local
These days, more and more people are choosing to consciously spend money with local businesses.
For instance, Leadership Mobile’s 2014 economic development group planned quarterly Cash Mobs, where 20 people commit to spending $20 cash each in a local store.
In addition, American Express developed Small Business Saturday, when the nation spends an estimated $5.5 billion at local shops throughout the country. The event will be held this year on Nov. 29.
Facebook pages, Twitter handles, LinkedIn groups and websites all tout the “buy local” message. The latest group to carry the “buy local” flag is comprised of mostly Mobile Area Chamber members working to reach out to the business community. The group would like to see the message go beyond the Chamber and beyond retail, circulating throughout the Mobile-Baldwin area year-round.
“It’s a message we have always believed in,” said Bob Chappelle, the Chamber’s chief operating officer, “and supporting local businesses is partly why we exist.”
“People aren’t going to buy from you just because you’re local. They expect a different experience,” said Michelle Ritter, owner of e-worc and one of the lead organizers of the new buy local group. “As a local business, we have the responsibility of offering superior services that reflect our community.”
The statistics are clear:
Danette Richards, the Chamber’s director of small business, said although franchises are part of a larger network, they are often locally owned and should be remembered in your buy-local strategy. “When I co-owned a franchise, we were committed to purchasing our materials and products locally. We lived here, we shopped here, and except for our company franchise fee, the money stayed here,” she said. Local retailers are working hard to bring more choices to local shoppers. “We know that big box stores, franchises and independent businesses are all necessary to give consumers variety, and they can all successfully coexist. Yet, statistics show just a small change in buying practices means big rewards for our community,” added Richards.
SMALL BUSINESS TOOLBOX
Everyone knows excellent customer service makes customers happy and ultimately benefits your business. Here’s a tip: When hiring, choose someone who is genuinely nice.
Local thought: “You can teach company/product knowledge, but you can’t teach nice,” says Buddy Rice, local customer service expert and public relations and marketing manager of the Mobile Airport Authority.
Find a business that complements yours. If you have a dress shop, team up with a shoe store (and vice-versa). Go one step further and offer 10 percent off coupons for those shoppers who make a same day purchase.
Local example: Cream and Sugar cake balls are sold at Carpe Diem, and Carpe Diem’s coffee is at Cream and Sugar. In addition, Cream and Sugar sells Cammie’s Old Dutch ice cream and Cammie’s uses Cream and Sugar cake balls in its salted caramel ice cream.
Find ways to appreciate your loyal patrons with referral and reward programs.
Local example: When Lagniappe, an area newspaper, was increasing its printing schedule from bi-weekly to weekly, it launched a “Friends With Benefits” program. Participants pay a weekly, monthly or annual fee and get advance notice on events, news and give-a-ways.
Buyers love discounts. But you can also win your customers’ hearts with reminders about Teacher Appreciation Week, an email that their favorite item is on sale or an early-bird special.
Local example: Take 5 Oil Change on Government Street offers a discount before 9 a.m.
Connecting with customers in a flood of emails and mile-long social media feeds is getting trickier. Try an annual open house that coincides with a holiday that fits your industry or bring in experts to talk with your client base.
Local example: Domke Market in west Mobile brings in representatives from wineries and offers free wine tastings.
Many customers take pride in making a unique “find” of a locally made product.
Local example: Downtown Mobile Alliance’s small business retail incubator Urban Emporium regularly features locally made and unique Mobile and Alabama items.
Bring on the Extras
Sometimes the small things make the biggest difference. Say happy birthday. Offer free gift wrapping. Serve coffee or hot chocolate on popular and chilly shopping days.
Local example: Felix’s Fish Camp sends happy birthday and anniversary cards, offering a discount to celebrate at the restaurant.
Click here to read The Business View – November 2014