Almost every time I talk about Shop Local campaigns, someone will mention that they can’t do one because it will offend their tourists and visitors. I think your visitors are more savvy than you give them credit for.
Let’s start with travel writer Sheila Scarborough. She and I do some work together at Tourism Currents. Over at Perceptive Travel, she recently wrote a post called “Before the holiday shopping frenzy begins, plan to keep it local.” She featured locally-owned stores she found in a 1700 mile road trip through Alabama and Texas. It wasn’t only about stores local to her, as long as they were local to their own place.
“I’m even more determined this year to stay out of the big boxes, scale back my spending and see what unique items I can find in my local, independently-owned shops,” Sheila said.
Because so many chamber people have mentioned worrying about offending visitors, I asked Sheila about it. Here’s what she said:
As a traveler, I see Shop Local efforts as showing me where to spend my money in a way that will have the most impact in a town. It may be by rewarding hard-working independent merchants who may be barely hanging on – either singly or in a district – or even if business is booming for a local store, I like for my money to reward the pioneer spirit of someone who may have started that shop in a formerly unpopular area of town when everyone thought they were crazy.
If I Shop Local, then it’s kind of like being a local myself for that day, and who wouldn’t enjoy that?
Better ways to say “Shop Local”
There are good ways and not-so-good ways to promote local shopping to your visitors and residents alike. Focus on your locally-owned businesses, ones that make your town different from every other town. Tag lines and slogans that appeal to everyone’s desire for a unique and interesting shopping experience work well.
- “Supporting Homegrown Businesses” — Luling, Texas
- “Love Geneva: It’ll Love You Back!” — Geneva, New York
- “Keep our community strong” — South Portland, Maine
- “Gift more thoughtfully” — AMIBA
Not so great examples for visitors:
- “Spend it where you earn it.”
- “Put your $$ where your house is.”
Trust your visitors to be smart. Let them be part of what makes your community special.
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.