Write up my street with Londis

Fergus Finlay, Barnardos, author Sarah Webb, and Londis retailer Joe O’Flynn with two budding writers at the launch  of ‘Write up my Street’. Winning entries will be chosen by bestselling author Sarah Webb for inclusion in a specially commissioned book, the proceeds of which will go to Barnardos children’s charity
Fergus Finlay, Barnardos, author Sarah Webb, and Londis retailer Joe O’Flynn with two budding writers at the launch of ‘Write up my Street’. Winning entries will be chosen by bestselling author Sarah Webb for inclusion in a specially commissioned book, the proceeds of which will go to Barnardos children’s charity

The traditional Irish community seems to be slipping away, according to 73% of Irish people, but Londis finds a way to fit community spirit into the offering

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19 May 2008 | 0

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Life in Ireland at one time revolved around community; small local networks across the country through which goods and services, help and support, and social interaction were facilitated on a daily basis.

In a recent study though, Londis discovered that 73% of Irish people believe that sense of community is disappearing, and consequently so is a big part of Ireland’s social make up.

The silver lining of this sad statistic however, is that it represents a big opportunity to reach out to a very large proportion of people in Ireland – 73% is no small number – and meet a clear need. Londis’ new initiative ‘Write up my Street’ is tailored to do just that, to reinvigorate and celebrate Irish communities, through the eyes and words of the younger generation.

In a nationwide competition, children can submit short stories based on the theme ‘There’s no community like my community’, and the winning entries will be collected in a book which will be sold in Londis stores around Ireland.

Speaking about the initiative, Ruth Norton, marketing manager ADM Londis, explains: “We were disappointed when we received the results of a survey commissioned by Londis which demonstrated a general erosion of community spirit throughout  Ireland. However it prompted us to develop an interactive promotional campaign which would thoroughly reinvigorate community spirit and get us all to consider how each of us can contribute to more vibrant, supportive communities in Ireland”.

Norton says she believes the “erosion of community spirit” revealed by Londis’ survey was most likely down to the ‘time poor’ phenomenon of the Celtic Tiger. So the new interactive campaign aims to “get people thinking about community” and to get young people in particular to write about what makes their individual communities unique.

“We also felt that in the era of electronic gadgets, a return to the simple pleasures of reading and writing would have resonance with parents, teachers and young people,” says Norton.

Staying close to you

Given Londis’ brand heritage, the initiative is quite a natural fit for the group. “Londis is close to you. That is the core positioning of the brand. Londis retailers are at the heart of communities throughout Ireland and they want to actively contribute to this revitalisation of community spirit and community support,” says Norton, “as local business owners and with deep links to the communities they serve, Londis retailers are committed to playing their part in the vitality of their communities.”

Of course, as she points out, most Londis retailers are also parents themselves, and so their insights were fundamental in formulating the campaign from the start. “They want their own children to grow up surrounded by the support of a warm and welcoming community and they want their children to appreciate the value of community.”  

One Londis man, Joe O’Flynn (Londis, Gardiner Street, Dublin 1) sums up the value of being community-minded: “These people are my customers, so if I cannot or choose not to engage with them, they will simply choose not to shop with me.

There is so much choice now for people that they will shop where they feel they are most welcome and with somebody who supports their own. I need people to see my shop as a place where they can pick up whatever they need, drop in for a friendly chat amongst staff or neighbours and generally for them to see that we offer a valuable service to their community.”

Getting involved

The campaign launched on 20 April, achieving immediate uptake by many retailers; a testament to their strong desire for an opportunity to get involved with their communities.“Straight away, we put up all the relevant point of sale and ensured that local community schools had received the information from Londis,” says O’ Flynn.

“I’ve stressed the importance of the activity to my staff and each member is actively encouraging consumers to pick up the information leaflet and, if they know young people who may be interested in participating, to do so.”

O’ Flynn has strongly emphasised to his staff the importance of supporting and promoting the campaign to customers largely out of personal ambition for his own community. “We would love the colourful Gardiner Street community to be featured in the final book so we’re asking all our young ones to submit stories!”

The results so far have been very positive for O’Flynn, as many of his customers from local flats and apartment complexes appreciate the initiave, and especially as it engages their children safely in their own homes. O’Flynn feels it has also brought him closer to his community and enables him to appreciate his local people.

“A lot of people in this community are really affected by the current economic crisis and they find it difficult to see much hope. But at the same time, these people are so resourceful in sticking together and weathering the storm. More ‘salt of the earth’ people you will not find anywhere else.”

He adds: “This in itself means that there is huge story telling scope for young people in this community. We’re going to harness that and get young people who would not ordinarily find themselves writing stories to bring Gardiner Street to life.”

Charity starts at home

The ultimate beneficiary of the project will be children’s charity Barnardos, which will receive all proceeds from sales of the book. This is not only a very appropriate cause but the association further emphasises the principal aim of the campaign; reviving traditional community values and placing Londis in an important supporting role at the centre of its communties.

Fergus Finlay, chief executive of Barnardos, believes the colaboration makes for a good fit too: “Like Londis, Barnardos understands the importance of community. A Barnardos centre in a community is a safe place for children to come to. It provides a sanctuary in what may be an otherwise harsh local environment. Through our work, we try to reinvigorate a local sense of community by working with other agencies in the area and providing the space for families to get together and support each other.

“The Londis ‘Write up my Street’ campaign has at it’s heart this same concept; it aims to get people thinking positively about their local community. Reflecting on what’s good in your local area will encourage a sense of pride and positivity about your surroundings which will filter through to the work we do on the ground.”

Finlay also affirms that the local retailer is an “extremely important contributor” in the community. “A viable retailer helps to keep a community alive and functioning. It can often be the glue that binds the community together providing a central meeting point, offering space to advertise local events and providing good value to it’s customers.”

In addition to the proceeds, Barnardos has even higher hopes for the campaign’s success. “A recent poll by Barnardos revealed that both parents and children cite a safe strong community as a major contributing factor in a good childhood. This initiative will help the public to rethink the importance of community and all that can be gained by interacting positively with the people that surround them.

It will reinvigorate communities in Ireland which will ultimately lead to a much greater sense of connectedness and support,” says Finlay.

Londis at the heart of the community

Londis of course has its own goals in launching the ‘Write up my Street’ initiative, namely getting people of all ages to reconnect with their communties; from the young people who must reengage with the idea of community spirit and the value of community participation through their writing, to the parents and older people who can appreciate their communities through the eyes of their children, encouraging proactive interaction amongst themselves and others.

Says Ruth Norton: “Obviously we want this book to be a huge success as all proceeds will go to Barnardos, helping less advantaged children fulfil their true potential.” Ultimately however, and most importantly, “We want to demonstrate to our consumers the value which Londis shop owners bring to local communities and the importance of supporting local community retailers, particularly in these more difficult times. If we allow local community businesses to falter, we believe the true fabric of Irish community life will be damaged.”

Londis has targeted over 3,400 primary schools throughout Ireland, making teachers aware of the campaign and encouraging them to get their pupils involved. For maximum benefit from the campaign however, Norton says: “We want every Londis retailer to personally visit their local teachers and encourage them to participate. Each Londis retailer will also display a suite of impactful point of sale which will drive awareness of the campaign amongst their consumers.

“Young people can enter as part of a broader school initiative or individually via in-store entry boxes, or by uploading their stories on to our website www.londis.ie. It goes without saying that the greater visibility and encouragement a Londis retailer can give to the promotion within his or her local community, the more consumers which will engage with the activity and the greater the sense of community spirit which can be created.”

 

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