Kathy says there is often a myth around small shop owners that the money “rolls in” but the truth is small and independently owned retail stores have a high closing rate within 3 years of opening. As the shop owner of The Salvaged Boutique, I enjoy hosting events that make our customers happy, offering discounts and sales, giving back to our community and giving donations to charity events. Even though our budget is small, it makes us happy to give back. So it surprised me when a friend recently asked, “Aside from shopping, how can someone support small shops like yours?” No one has ever really asked that before. So it got me thinking. If you love to shop local, if you have a favorite little online shop or boutique in your area, if you prefer to spend money at a local and independently owned business, instead of a chain or Amazon - here are some ways you too can support the small shop owner:
1. Offer Suggestions:
Store owners are wonderful at listening. If you see your local store posting polls, questions about what products to bring to market - say something! Offer NEW and FUN items they may not know about. If you are loyal to a brand and know that their story deserves to be shared, be the advocate to help them. A favorite time for suggestions is during Market Buying at trade shows. Kathy at Pineapple on Main gets her audience engaged whenever she travels with pictures, videos and fun stories of possible products to sell!
What can you do? Speak up! If you know a company that does giveaways and a store has a preferred charity, connect the two! Start a conversation with the store owner and mention that this is something YOU as a customer would like to see. Perhaps your network of friends will be interested too since you are passionate!
2. Spread the Word of Mouth:
Referrals can make a substantial impact for small businesses (especially when you post a photo like this one from Happily Ever After Words shop). One friend tells another friend and that friend tells another friend and so on and so on. Someone might be reluctant to check out the new shop in the area until they hear about it from a friend. Kathy's shop is in an area that’s saturated with storefronts - unfortunately many of them are empty so people tend to just drive by without realizing some are open. So when a friend refers a new customer, they really appreciate the exposure. It shows the store that they are doing something right and can continue carrying on the good service! Many times there are referral bonuses or incentives for sharing via your network - as Baby Jack implemented the Lovey Loyalty Program. Krystal from Freckle Farm Primitives And Antiques gives customers a 10% return code if they check-in or tag them on social media and Patricia of Paparazzi Accessories encourages "mailbox pick up pictures" and "accessory selfies" modeling her creations for extra freebies to happy customers!
What can else you do? Tell 3-5 friends about your favorite small shops! Send an email and title it “LOCAL LOVE”, call and tell friends, write a post on Facebook or Instagram and ask your friends to tag their favorite small shops too. Get involved and engage - your friends will see your actions and take interest!
3. Get Social via Social Media:
On average only 6% of shop owners’ posts on Facebook or Instagram are shown to followers. Only 6%! But do you know that if you take engagement on a post beyond a “like”, it boosts our exposure on social media. Get creative and show support with your favorite shops. TAG them and use CORRECT HASHTAGS. Usually as a thank you, the shops will repost and credit you!
What can you do? Respond to the post with a comment, “love” the post by giving it a heart, or share your favorite shops posts! It’s such a small action that can really help to boost reach and show Facebook / Instagram that you care.
4. Host Private Events
Most shop owners are happy to host or be involved in private events. The more people that get into their stores or see their products, the better. Public events encourage community involvement and interaction so do not be shy when asking your local brick and mortar store to put something together like a "Meet the Maker" pop up shops or Women's Book Club. The possibilities are endless!
What can you do? Ask your local boutique owner if you can bring 10-20 friends for a private shopping event or ask your favorite online shop owner to bring their display of goods and host a private event in your own home.
5. Leave Online Reviews
Unfortunately people tend to review businesses when they are unhappy with something but what about taking a moment to write some positive and kind about your favorite local shops? Not only does it help a small business, it helps the business owner learn about what they are doing WELL.
What can you do? Write a Google, Yelp or Facebook Review telling your small shop owner what you love about their business. Usually they will share your words too!
As a customer and community member, remember that every time you support a local online or brick and mortar business - you are supporting a dream. A dream that someone once had and risked their time, money, efforts to bring joy. We hope that this JOY is appreciated and you continue to support your favorites!