This past week The Advertiser and Messenger newspapers (published by News Ltd) have begun their own initiative 'Shop in SA' and have used the Twitter hashtag #shopinsa to allow businesses to promote and for Twitter users to tweet about their favourite local shops.
On the Adelaide Now website 838 shops have so far registered and their are links to their websites, which is fantastic for promotion and customers to be able to click on the link.
With numerous reports about the retail sector being in trouble from increased competition from online retailers (usually reported as overseas retailers) this would seem an attempt to encourage consumers to spend their Chrismas gift giving dollars at local shops instead of online. I think howeveer, there are larger problems in the retail sector than internet shopping (customer service, opening hours...but I won't go into that today).
This is a commendable idea and it is encouraging to see local shops given profiles in the printed newspaper and online. My weekly copy of The Messenger this week featured the shop Vintage Carousel, which began as an online store in 2003 before becoming a 'bricks and mortar' shop in 2009. It is important to remember that online shops can also be 'local' and support for these businesses does not have to be seen as being to the detriment of physical shops. The US campaign from a few Christmas' ago 'Buy Handmade' had it's focus on getting people to buy only handmade gifts to support local craft makers. This campaign was also able to link in with Etsy and independent craft bloggers.
Each weekday over this past week The Advertiser have been printing a list of 'Best 50 shops' in different Adelaide suburbs. The paper states that the list is a result of a "call out to our readers...which nearly 1000 people responded to", no information is given on age, gender of the people surveyed or if they could nominate a shop more than once. What disappointed me about this list - and do I blame those responding or the criteria? - is the inclusion of big store retailers including; Coles, Myer, Target, Sussan, Jeanswest, Bakers Delight, Neds, Betts in the '50 shops' list which covered the Northern suburbs of Adelaide. (15 could be considered chainstores/large retailers)
The 'Best 50' list for the Western suburbs was more encouraging with nine shops which could be counted as chainstores/large retailers which operate nationally. When consumers purchase from chain stores there are extra considerations to take into account; including the shipping of the product and while they do employ local staff, money also does flow out of the state to pay for transport, head office staff, administration and profit sharing.
While the Shop in SA campaign is commendable and has provided publicity to small, Adelaide based businesses such as Vintage Carousel, Naomi Murrell, Greenhill Galleries, By Blackbird - I feel there this could have been more of an opportunity to promote only independent retailers, those who are based in Adelaide in terms of their 'head office/administration' and those who are making their product in SA. I would have liked to see The Advertiser/Messenger also connect with Renew Adelaide and Renew Port Adelaide to link in with an existing urban regeneration project and to provide promotion to the shops, which are SA based, independent and shopping in them would mean dollars that are spent in businesses which need foot traffic and word of mouth to keep them going.
Running a successful business requires customers to know that your business exists (sorry for being obvious) and buy local or Shop in SA campaigns are positive in that they raise awareness and let customers know the shops in their suburbs - and hopefully they will go and visit and purchase. Shops allow for a community to develop- and this can also be seen online. Farmers markets bring people to a local area to buy from the growers and makers, to talk about produce and buying local has the advantage of lessening transport of fruit and vegetables. Often it is seen, when a new cafe opens up, so to will a couple of shops (see Queen St, Croydon as an example).
This article from Time discusses how buying locally has an effect on how money stays within a community - "by shopping at the corner store instead of the big box, consumers keep their communities from becoming what the NEF call "ghost towns" and this is why it is so important to support Shops in SA, whether online or bricks and mortar - because it supports communites and helps money stay within that local community and that should make us feel good.