As big box retail and online giants continue to step on independent territory, campaigning for the local guy and the brick and mortars of Main Street has become a national movement. Among the advocates speaking out for independents is Stacy Mitchell, senior researcher for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) and author of, “Big-Box Swindle.” The ILSR, with the help of Mitchell, has developed a program called the New Rules Project to help bring fresh new policy solutions to communities and states, ensuring that they are designing rules as if community matters. Yet retailers looking to be advocates themselves should participate in buy local campaigns, proactive opportunities to combat legislation, and rebuilding local economies.
Be Your Own Advocate
Both surveys and anecdotal evidence indicate that these campaigns have a significant impact. The ILSR says, “For the fourth year in a row, a national survey of independent businesses has found that those in communities with an active ‘buy local’ campaign have experienced markedly stronger revenue growth, compared to those located in areas without such a campaign.” Buy local campaigns, such as the recent, Independent Retailer Month, have spread across Main Street USA like wildfire, and as a result, participants have attracted new customers to their business and an increase in customer loyalty.
If you are looking to start your own buy local campaign, following are the first steps, as suggested by the ILSR:
1) Form a steering committee. The committee should include six to 15 people, mostly local business owners, along with a few individuals and leaders of any relevant organizations, including downtown revitalization groups.
2) Set a date for a kick-off event. The event should be something that starts a long list of goals, provides immediate media visibility, and helps with initial recruitment.
3) Devise a name, slogan and logo. The group name and slogan should be positive, proactive and professional. As this is a local campaign, look into recruiting local designers.
4) Develop a campaign kit. A campaign kit is the packet of materials that businesses receive when they join. It can include anything from a welcome letter to a storefront decal, to a list of participating businesses.
5) Define membership. Before accepting memberships, you should determine which businesses are eligible to participate. Also, how much will it cost for businesses to join?
The next steps are just as important, and in order for any buy local campaign to be successful, it needs to pursue organizational development and spread the campaign message simultaneously. The campaign will need more than a steering committee, and will only operate smoothly if a board is formed, bylaws are adopted and a budget is followed. Spreading the campaign’s message is the fun part. As the ILSR notes, “The more people learn and the more they see and hear the buy local message, the greater the impact of your campaign and the more it will influence people’s choices.”
For more information:
ILSR’s New Rules Project
Mail Stop 67
1313 5th Street SE, Ste. 303
Minneapolis, MN 55414