Monday, October 5, 2009

Uptown Westerville is a Place to Buy Local

Uptown Westerville's 350 Project support and Outside Envy's Kriss Rogers gets a mention in Business Journalism's blog: Your Daily Tipsheet in a posting by Melissa Preddy:

Sep 24, 2009

Covering retail tactics along Main Street

Chain store closings, like the recent demise of Circuit City and Starbucks’ coffee-shop contraction, make national headlines. But small shops and eateries, with fewer resources and lower profiles, are even more likely to suffer in a recession. Their plight, going into the ever-crucial fourth quarter retailing season, is well worth a second look.

If you cover an area with a venerable shopping district or small biz cluster, consider planning a standing feature to run from early October to year-end, with a weekly check-in, multimedia (interactive maps, interviews, behind-the-scenes video) and other elements that chronicle the season as it unfolds.

A growing angle: “Shop local” campaigns sponsored by business associations, chambers of commerce and other stakeholders. The marketing spins prompt area residents to head to neighborhood shops instead of chain stores to support the local economy.

One such effort getting a lot of attention this year is called the 3/50 Project.

It’s a simple premise: Participants ask residents to pick three locally owned businesses and spend $50 a month in them. Campaign organizers claim that if half of American shoppers did so, local merchants would benefit by more than $42 billion.

Kriss Rogers is president of the Uptown Merchants Association in Westerville, Ohio, which features a quaint maze of 19th Century storefronts north of Columbus. She started displaying 3/50 signage at her garden-themed gift shop, Outdoor Envy, last spring. A few months ago, she started signing up other local storekeepers and says the community is responding. “I would say one out of three customers will read it and comment in a positive way,” said Rogers. “Lately they’ll come in and say ‘I thought I’d see if you have what I wanted before going to the mall.”

The 3/50 Project site lists retail participants by state; for other initiatives in your area dig around or contact the Chamber of Commerce. Some noteworthy efforts nationwide:

• “Keep Louisville Weird” in Louisville, Ky.

• Baltimore’s neighborhoods ran a “Miracle on Main Streets” campaign last year.

• Hancock County, Miss. plans again this year to run its “Holiday at Home” campaign urging residents to shop and dine at grass roots businesses this fall and Christmas season.

Other things to keep in mind: Neighborhood and downtown districts this year will try to gin up resident interest with festivals, special shopping events, sidewalk sales and other promotions – dig into the cost/benefit dilemma merchants face when being asked to sponsor these community relations events. And be on the lookout for innovations.

Rogers says her association has issued a gift card good at 16 local shops, to compete with the convenience of universal mall gift cards. Other cities issue scrip or vouchers good at local stores. Round out your story with analyst commentary and statistics.

For nationwide perspective, try the Main Street center of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington, D.C. The center’s site also features its State of Main Street 2009 report.

Many of the campaigns claim that dollars spent locally benefit the community with a “multiplier effect,” meaning they are recycled through the local economy in the form of wages and spending by the area merchants, compared to cash that is whisked into corporate coffers. Many of the citations regarding the multiplier effect are vague; I’d suggest checking for real-life data from a consulting firm such as

Civic Economics
, which does nationwide studies out of offices in Chicago and Austin, Texas.For data, explore the

U.S. Census Bureau
’s retail portal. Among other things, it’s got a ZIP-code searchable database of business establishments by type and size; that will give you a look at how local shops are dwindling or multiplying. Census Bureau analyst can help you mine the data further.

Uptown Westerville Merchants support the 3/50 Project. Uptown Westerville's small business owners are our neighbors and friends! The Westerville Uptown Merchants Association encourages folks to buy local and Shop Uptown Westerville. Visit Kriss at Outside Envy, 15 N. State in Uptown Westerville, a Place for Small Business, a Place for People.

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