By David F. Rooney
If you’re in business in a small community it is always dismaying to learn that your potential customers prefer to go out of town rather than walk through your front door.
Out of town shopping has for decades been an issue here and the Revelstoke Chamber of Commerce has initiated a campaign aimed at helping businesses and consumers address the issue. This is a slightly new wrinkle in the struggle for shoppers’ dollars. Past campaigns have focused mostly on trying to convince consumers that their money is best spent here — not in Salmon Arm, Vernon Kelowna or Kamloops.
Out-of-town shopping is an issue that affects everyone. Sure, you may save a few bucks but you’re also contributing to the erosion of community life in Revelstoke.
Members who attended the Chamber’s luncheon at Powder Springs last Wednesday were directed to a website called Tenpercentshift.ca to find new ways to retain their client base. Without those local clients local businesses will not survive. Among the tips suggested by Executive Director Judy Goodman were:
- Give your website’s Search Engine Optimization a local boost. Google and other search engines already go ‘local first’ in their own way. But you can boost your SEO by highlighting key words and phrases in your website content — things like made/produced/grown in Revelstoke, BC-made, etc.;
- Offer a deal for 10% Shifters. Bring customers in who are committed to the Shift and give them a loyalty reward or another incentive;
- Make sure your service and quality meets the highest standard. We’re agreeing to try local first. You have to win our repeated business through excellent quality and service and through cheerful problem-solving;
- Part of the promise of buying local for shoppers is the experience of being connected to our community. Your service fulfills that promise when you know someone’s name, ask after their family or remember their last order;
- Businesses who are part of their local community win their loyalty. Sponsoring special events and donating goods or services to local schools, sports teams, arts groups and other organizations gets notices;
- Pay it forward. Source your suppliers locally as well and let your customers know about it;
- Post a sign in your window. The Chamber will be developing a logo and working on a joint-member program;
- Tell your customers what they did with a “Thanks for shopping locally” message on their receipt or invoice; and
- Follow Tenpercentshift.ca on Twitter or Facebook so you can keep them informed.
The website also discusses the benefits to consumers of shopping locally.
Keep money in your community — Going local first keeps almost 70% of your money in the local economy. It notes, too that by spending locally, shoppers are embracing their community’s unique identity.
Local businesses should provide better service and should try harder to meet your particular needs – they don’t rely on a national sales plan.
More local ownership equals more jobs. Studies consistently show that local small business are the greatest source of local employment. So why wouldn’t we encourage more local start-ups?
Small local business also help out the environment. This is a biggie – less transportation, lower energy and fuel costs, less excessive packaging… you get the idea.
The website also noted that local businesses support local community groups. Did you know non-profits receive an average of 350% more support from local businesses than they do from non-locally owned businesses?
And they make better use of community space. Big box stores can be highly attractive but… Wouldn’t it be better to have more local businesses that can make use of existing empty space in a heritage building downtown? And do we really look like Salmon Arm, or Kelowna or Vernon, or…?
More local businesses mean a stronger tax base, and that pays for better public services for everyone. And finally, the folks who own and work at local businesses are your friends and neighbours. They live, work and are invested in our community – just like you!