A Neighborhood Improvement Journal - Summer 2021


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Promoting Buy-Local  Part II 


By Fred Gillette


In Part I, Winter 2012, we looked at methods of promoting economic localism.  In Part II, we examine ways of measuring the success of our efforts while using that information to further promote the concept.





Evaluating successes - and failures


It’s important to know the degree to which your efforts are producing results.  Although you may have anecdotal evidence from the observations of participants and neighbors, nothing takes the place of real, objectively collected data.


Merchants and service providers may be reluctant to reveal, even to fellow merchants, specific sales data, but would probably be willing to answer some questions put to them in a questionnaire by a known and respected neighborhood organization – especially one promoting the wellbeing of local business.  Such surveying should be undertaken by persons trusted to conduct and report results with competency and accuracy.  If a merchants’ organization or a neighborhood buy-local committee prefers not to do it themselves, a local college research class or research instructor may be willing to take this on as a project.  If funds are available, a market research organization may be commissioned. 


A good preliminary step to actually assembling a survey or data collection plan is to state, as precisely as possible, the effects that you hope your buy local campaign will produce. 





A survey of merchants would likely include questions such as:


What was the net effect, in financial terms of the (buy local) campaign?  Ideally, this should be expressed in terms of revenue increase, over a given period of time, minus costs of participating in the campaign.  Cost summaries should include planning and implementation time.  If hard data is not available, estimates will suffice.


Are there any less tangible effects of the campaign?  For example, indicators of increased awareness of your shop or service, changes in customer attitudes, personal gratification for participating in the planning or execution of the campaign, or perhaps a sense of more-trouble-than-it’s-worth for your efforts?


How do you think that future buy-local campaigns might be run for greater effectiveness?


What customer concerns or interests might be better addressed in future buy-local campaigns?


Additional comments?



Surveys of customers might include questions such as:


How did you become aware of the neighborhood buy-local campaign?


Did it affect your shopping practices?  If so, in what way?


Were there aspects of the publicity for the buy-local campaign that were less effective than they could have been, perhaps even harmful or annoying?


Do you generally support the idea of consciously doing as much shopping locally as possible?


Do you have reservations or objections to buy-local efforts?


Additional comments?




The surveys should consist of mostly open ended questions rather than fixed choice questions.  Although more difficult to tabulate responses, these often generate data that the survey designers didn’t even think of asking for. 




Surveys should be as widely distributed as possible. The act of surveying further promotes the buy-local goals.  It informs those, who might not know, of its existence and gives them a way to make contact with its organizers.




Reporting and disseminating results


A report of findings could likely be produced by those conducting the survey.  If numeric data is being included, it should be displayed both in tables and graphically.  The primary audience will be members of your merchants’ association, buy-local promotion committee or general neighborhood organization.  It may be that a local medium of neighborhood news will publish the report, or portions thereof, for a general audience’s interest. Therefore, at least part of the report and its conclusions should be in a form easily digested by a general audience.



The data presented in the report can then be used, by those wanting to further promote buying locally, to design and execute future campaigns.  This process of trying to reach your customers and clients and create an ever widening circle of buy-local enthusiasts thus cycles perpetually through the process of design, implementation, evaluation and refinement. 





In sum


The success of economic localism doesn’t depend entirely on the efforts of those directly promoting it.  There are certain human propensities toward community life that are most compatible with the buy-local movement.  We get a different feeling when walking into a local shop and being around our neighbors and possibly friends and acquaintances then we do when walking into a distant, cavernous warehouse of bargains.  Life’s economic necessities may often send us across town to the warehouse, but not necessarily all the time.  Receptivity to the buy-local concept is often just waiting to be awakened.  Customers and clients, interacting with and sharing experiences with their neighbors, further propel the movement.


Sometimes an idea or concept is difficult to grasp or identify when we don’t have a commonly used name for it…like road rage or too-big-to-fail or underwater mortgages.  But once it acquires an easily recognized name, light bulbs of recognition twinkle on throughout the land.  People have been talking about and repeating the concept of buying local long enough now so that the dormant predisposition to shop near home is gradually gaining an “of course” status.  Of course doing business near home could work and produce a number of good outcomes.  Let’s think about trying to do that.  And if we receive a bit more encouragement, let’s even actually, perhaps do it.


This is where merchants, service providers, community leaders and regular neighbors may all converge to make it happen. The suppliers of goods and services may inform, influence, and persuade us with their own stories as well as pool their creativity and energy and address the neighborhood economy as a whole. This gives us a clearer picture of what it is they are individually offering while simultaneously urging us to more broadly appreciate localism as a viable way of life.  Consumers can then easily vote on what they want their world of suppliers and providers to be and quickly cause it to become reality.  There are compelling reasons for each possible choice, but the tide seemingly is turning ever more in the direction of those providers and consumers who would like to bring it on home.







New Localism



Portland, Maine, Independent Business & Community Alliance



Sustainable Connections:  Think Local First


Bloomburg Business Week:  To Beat Recession, Indies Launch Buy-Local Push http://www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/content/feb2009/sb20090226_752622.htm 

Shop Local Campaigns for Small Towns



Baltimore Main Streets:  Move Over Malls



North Reading Chamber of Commerce:  Buy Local Marketing Plan






Many more useful resources and ideas are to be found on the web.  Search “buy local”  or “shop local” or “go local” combined with “what works”. 



tip jarNeighborhood Life depends on your financial support.