I have to give Merrimack Valley Small Business Center and Stacie Hargis some credit. Every facebook thread discussing Black Friday shopping, Lowell businesses, or other related items I’ve seen, I’ve seen a comment from Ms. Hargis reminding everyone of Lowell’s shop local day that coincidentally falls on the City’s City of Lights, shop at the Pollard, and hot chocolate contest holiday event. I am curious if this type of social (almost guerrilla) marketing will work out, but I certainly hope it does.
It was surprising that Small Business Saturday (the national campaign) was founded by American Express only three years ago, and it was officially recognized by the US senate in 2011. FedEx has an offer for any business to print two small posters about it, and Foursquare and Twitter offer free advertising credits. Although it has its critics (largely, small businesses frustrated by FedEx’s high swipe fees), it generally seems to be successful.
I actually thought about Lowell’s need for “local shopping days” when I first moved here. Lowell doesn’t seem to have quite as many iconic retail businesses as other cities I’ve been, and the downtown is fairly spread out.Abby’s Treasuresis only seven minutes from Found, for example, but they “feel” very far apart. (As a side-note, it took me ten minutes to find Abby’s Treasures on the internet because I forgot the name. That seems problematic.) In addition, many stores are tucked away. Finding Back Room Vintage behind Zeitgeist Gallery is a fun discovery, but you have to be exploring to make it.
Tallahassee, FL has had “local business Saturdays” every other weekend since 2011. The initiative was a joint effort by the mayor’s office and several chamber of commerce-type groups. The groups encourage businesses to have special sales on those Saturdays to create critical masses of shoppers and encourage them to explore the downtown districts. I haven’t been able to find any studies on these type of efforts’ effectiveness, but it may be worth looking into.
My thoughts about Small Business Saturday, the free Twitter advertising credits, and Stacie Hargis’s tireless social media campaigning of Shop Local have lead me to wonder whether this would be an interesting topic to discuss at the upcoming Dec. 7 social media conference. The theme appears to be social activism through social media, but there might be room to discuss local business’s use of social media. I’m certainly curious as to how much that’s emphasized in the Best Retail Practices program.