In a retail world dominated by big boxes and online shopping, it’s important to remind customers that local shops still exist and brick-and-mortar stores have a vital place in this world. The shop-local movement shows the positive impact that buying from local businesses has on local economies.
This list highlights some of the promotions and practices that I use at T & M Hardware and in my community to help spread the shop-local spirit. While these efforts are helpful, they will never truly be successful until every independent retailer walks and talks local business.
If every person reading this article commits to all or even just a handful of these ideas, we can really ignite the movement and transform shopping local into a way of life, not only a feel-good cause reserved for the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
1. Spend your money locally
It’s easy to dine locally, but it’s harder to regularly make purchases at specialty shops, the businesses that need the most support. Try to set aside money to buy something from a different shop every month. Shifting as little as $10 or $20 from a national chain to an independent business helps keep main streets thriving.
2. Get Involved in Online Groups
There are many local groups on social media where neighbors look for items you sell. For example, our town has a gardening group my staff and I joined to open the lines of communication. Customers now ask us if we can get certain products so they can buy them locally. We also keep them updated on new products.
3. Hire Local Staff
Your customers want to do business with people they know and like, so having a local staff incentivizes local shopping. Residents know and talk to many people, and word-of-mouth is priceless. Locals know the pulse of the community, which allows you to tailor operations to meet their needs so they don’t have to shop elsewhere.
4. Showcase your community contributions
You buy ads in local programs, donate to local organizations, sponsor community events and volunteer. But do your customers know you do this? People like to support businesses that are involved in the community because they see their money making a difference. Find ways to showcase everything your business is able to do for the community.
5. Promote Your Special-Order Capabilities
Most customers assume if you don’t carry a product in your store they have to buy it elsewhere. However, many customers are willing to wait for orders to come in because they want to support local businesses. Make sure customers know you have access to more SKUs than you have on the shelf so they can better support you.
6. Participate in Small Business Saturday
Every November, American Express sponsors Small Business Saturday to encourage consumers to shop local businesses during the holiday season. The company does a phenomenal job promoting the event nationally, including offering free resources to small businesses, but it’s up to you to host events to promote shopping local in your community.
7. Co-op Advertising
Advertising is expensive, but it can be more affordable split across several businesses. If all the independents in your district chip in, everyone will be able to advertise more frequently, increasing awareness of all your businesses to local and visiting shoppers alike.
8. Remind your customers about your delivery services
While online retailers boast about how they can offer fast shipping, local businesses have always been able to offer same-day or even one-hour delivery. Some retailers have even followed customers home on occasion to make a delivery. Promote your ability to receive products within similar time frames so customers have an extra incentive to shop your business. Serve customers well with timely receiving and buy online, pickup in store services, so when the chain stores and online retailers start offering faster delivery services, they will remember that you have already set the standard.
9. Show Your Love for Local
While purchasing from local businesses is the best way to show your love for local, also use social media to leave reviews online. Like and share small businesses’ posts on social media, post pictures of the products you buy and share testimonials to show your support to help expand their reach, exposure and credibility in the community.
10. Take one for the team
If there are areas where your products overlap with other local retailers, consider eliminating them to give the other retailer the business. This can free up resources to reinvest into growing other areas of your operation.