Throughout the month of July, communities all over the world celebrate independent businesses and their role in shaping culture. Founded by Kerry Bannigan, CEO of Nolcha Fashion Week for independent fashion designers, and Tom Shay, retail expert and principal of Profits Plus, Independent Retailer Month brings the importance of shopping locally into the spotlight, connecting consumers to local retail merchants and reminding them of the benefits of thinking small. The initiative has grown exponentially since its inception in 2003 and now has hubs in Canada and the United Kingdom.
There are multiple ways to get involved with Independent Retailer Month, whether as the owner of a small business or a shopper. When deciding about where to make a purchase, customers are encouraged to pledge to shop locally. IR Month has its own Facebook and Twitter pages full of daily tips and deals that shoppers can follow, and encourages customers to invite friends and family to share in the celebration. Retailers, on the other hand, can involve their local merchants’ association, Chamber of Commerce and Main Street program to include as many local businesses as possible. To announce any festivities, postcards, tea cards, web banner downloads and other signage are available online.
The founders of IR Month compiled an online idea bank for small businesses needing tips for getting started, divided into three categories: in store tactics, social media actions and community efforts. Within a brick and mortar, Bannigan and Shay suggest holding meet and greet events throughout the month. “Offer goodie bags, team up with a salon and offer customers in-store pampering, and team up with neighboring indies to host a shopping crawl,” the site suggests.
Independent retailers can harness the long reach of the web and have a contest for the most creative photo in which a customer is shown with their shopping bag. Exclusive coupons and flash sales through Facebook and Twitter are known to be one of the most effective traffic drivers to date. Contests focusing on customers’ favorite outfits or products are highly effective, as well. Encourage shoppers to check in via FourSquare or Facebook and offer an incentive for the most frequent shoppers, such as a coupon for purchases made in August or September.
Community involvement is at the heart of IR Month. With this in mind, city officials have an opportunity to advocate for this initiative and offer awards to retailers who have volunteered outstanding service to the community. As it was founded with a spirit of giving back, IR Month encourages retailers to take on a community project such as replanting the planters in the area or adding a tree to the town green. “Offer to make a donation of 10 percent of the purchase price for each customer that names a local charity,” the website suggests. By the end of July, shopping small yields huge results.