Not just for Christmas
Shopping local and supporting local businesses has never been so important with growing competition from online shopping and international companies. David Corscadden looks at how retailers can drive home the local message to their communities.
13 December 2013
With €8.5 million being spent daily purchasing products online from non-Irish companies and Love Irish Food reporting Irish consumers spend €1.8 billion on imported food annually, the need to support local retailers and businesses has never been more important.
While groups like Love Irish Food put huge emphasis on Christmas and invest substantial money into promoting ‘Buy Irish’ in the lead up to the festivities, retailers and retail organisation spoken to on the matter of ‘Shop Local’ all stress that it not just for Christmas. They believe for a shop local campaign to be successful it must be a year round way of thinking for both consumers and retailers.
This is a sentiment supported by Tom Rae of Guaranteed Irish who says it is important that supporting Irish products and producers is done year round and not just at key seasonal times. He explains that buying Irish products has seen great interest in recent years, saying: "We have seen a great resurgence in people shopping locallly and asking for local produce. The reason being they want to support jobs locally and they want to support local suppliers."
The first step
RGDATA, which has advocated for the continued sustainable development and vibrancy of town centres in Ireland, has been actively involved with supporting and establishing shop local campaigns throughout 2013.
Caitriona Doran of Doran’s SuperValu, Graignamanagh, Kilkenny became inspired by the potential of shop local campaigns having talked to RGDATA and reading about other retailers’ experiences. While still in its early stages the campaign in Graignamanagh has gained great momentum and encompasses all of the businesses in the town. Doran explains that to truly support a town communities should look to supporting local not just shopping local. She says: "It was easy to say shop local but if you support the tourism we are all going to benefit from it. People who visit have to get their breakfast rolls or bottles of water from the shops and so on."
Doran believes that people do not realise the additional costs associated with not shopping local. She explains for a family of four to travel to do their shopping they encounter costs they would not if they stayed local. She says: "I did a little experiment last week and found that if a family of four went to Kilkenny to do their shopping they would spend €10 on petrol and then €40-50 by the time you buy lunch, snacks and then the ‘mammy, can I have this?’ moments!"
She also adds it is very important to show the community that the work is being done by local people saying "The biggest thing for us with the scheme is that it is local business people trying to reinvigorate the town and encourage people to open their eyes and to see what we can offer them."
Creating something tangible
Glenn Sheridan, secretary and founder of the Waterford City Centre Business (WCCB) group believes that the key to a successful shop local campaign is ensuring it carries on throughout the year and that consumers become aware of it quickly. Initiatives such as the city’s ‘Friday After Five’ where retailers ran promotions and city car parks were free to use have been extremely successful for the group and "created a great atmosphere in the town".
The Waterford group has also just launched a new voucher scheme which aims to keep revenue within the city. Sheridan explains a lot of money, traditionally given in the form of vouchers at Christmas and other occasions, end up being spent outside the city in larger retail destinations such as Cork and Dundrum.
The voucher, which is a joint venture between WCCB and The Waterford Chamber, has received great support from consumers since the launch in the last week of November. The voucher has already retained €10,000 within the local community which would have gone elsewhere. He says consumers are delighted to have something tangible to show they are supporting local, noting: "A lot of people are coming in saying that is great, that’s the Christmas present sorted." He also adds that the voucher has been warmly welcomed by the retail community with 70 stores already signing up to the scheme.
In Graignamanagh the large push at the moment is focused on Christmas but Doran explains the group is focused on ensuring the campaign is not just a seasonal event. She explains: "Come January we will sit down and look at what we can achieve in the coming years and really set out what can we do in 2014 to improve the town and encourage people to stay here or even people to come here from other towns."
Options for everyone
The benefit of shop local schemes is outlined by RGDATA which points out the findings of the Annual Independent Business Survey in the USA, which reveals that businesses on average see revenue growth of 6.8% when a community starts a shop local campaign.
The group explains that not all shop local projects need large investments of capital to be successful, there are many cost effective ways to get the message out to the public. WCCB has gained great exposure with all its campaigns through social media and has found it a cost effective way to self-publicise its events and promotions.
This is something that Doran has found extremely useful in Graignamanagh also. She says the support to its social media accounts has been great. "Within a week or ten days of setting up a page we had 500 – 600 people and as soon as you write something on that page you are getting that message out to 500 – 600 people and then if they like it all their friends see it then so it is a quick way of getting a message out there."
Promoting Shop local to consumers
RGDATA sets out a number of cost effective ways for retailers to promote ‘Shop local’ to consumers:
Waving the green flag
Make customers aware of how much your business contributes to the community such as the number of local staff employed. Also highlight locally sourced produce in your shop.
Get all local traders together and involved with promoting shop local. Eye-catching posters and leaflets will grab attention and showcase the benefits of shopping local. Officially launch the campaign with the community and local media to draw awareness.
Organise regular promotion days focused on showcasing the special services provided by local shops. Try and get your County Council to agree to a car parking incentive on this day.
Social media & loyalty schemes
Social Media is a cost effective way to speak to a community. Ask customers for their email address or to ‘Like’ a Facebook page to become a supporter of the campaign. You can then send news about the campaign and special discounts/deals to subscribers.
Surveys tailored to the local environment can provide valuable insight to retailers. Surveys could include: a sourcing survey comparing the amount of local produce stocked in local stores compared with larger national stores and a shopper survey to see what people value about their local shops.
Christmas gift tags
Where products are bought to be given as a Christmas gift, retailers could give the customer a gift tag saying: "This gift was thoughtfully purchased for you at a locally owned shop supporting X jobs."
Rewarding customers for shopping local
Value Nation was put together with one mission in mind, to drive locals back into local businesses. It set out to radicalise the way business is done by creating an environment that allows a roof to be put over the town enabling otherwise lone merchants come together and brand themselves as one larger entity.
The company says the fight back begins now and the first part of a seven piece plan was Lollipoints which was launched a couple of weeks ago. Lollipoints Loyalty is the next generation in customer engagement. With it retailers can get to know existing customers better and can also attract hundreds of new customers. Lollipoints will help retailers identify, understand and reward customers for continued loyal custom.
The Lollipoints platform also allows customers to give you private feedback to help you maintain and improve your service and quality and allows you to address their concerns directly. For more information on the Lollipoints scheme and to express interest in it, visit Lollipoints.com.