How your shop can get involved in your community
You’ve got a passion for the business in which you immerse yourself on a daily basis; it’s why you decided to open your own shop. But how do you keep that business afloat? Finding the right niche, selling the right products to the right clientele, and engaging with your customers are all core aspects of maintaining your shop, but an all-too-often-overlooked facet is community involvement.
As an independent retailer, you need to become a valuable cog in your community machine; your survival depends on it. In fact, being a part of your community can be one of the biggest drivers of sales. Some ideas start off small and can really snowball once you get your staff included and find what really makes you feel connected to the neighborhood.
Party & Paper Retailer recently sat in on a discussion where a handful of retailers shared their successful strategies for getting involved in their community. Alison Dodson Anderson, owner of A. Dodson’s three locations in Suffolk, Norfolk and Virginia Beach, Virginia, started a Round Up program. Each month, three charities are selected, and when someone comes into the store, an employee will ask the guest at checkout if they would like to round up their bill to the nearest dollar, and if so, for which charity. At the end of the month, Anderson will match the winning charity’s earnings. While there’s only one winner per month, three charities are being exposed and the community is being educated on charities in their area. “As retailers, you get asked every single day if you can donate something,” said Anderson. “I was just tired of going to market and looking for that bag that I could buy 200 of to give away.” She didn’t know if she was making much of an impact with this method of donation, so it was then that Round Up was created. And the idea essentially runs itself. They now give away no less than $1,500/month.
“Now we have people who ask ‘hey, what’s your charity?’ It’s a great icebreaker, and it allows us to open up to a different customer base that we might not have had,” she added. So, not only has A. Dodson’s found a program it can be proud of, involved themselves in the community and educated their neighbors, but now the shop has charities that may not have heard of it and now want to shop there.
This kind of success doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and energy, and with any luck it grows into something that’s helping the less fortunate; something that gets your name out there; and something your team can be proud of.
Five ways to get involved in your community
1. Charitable giving
Whether it’s with donating product or money, or volunteering your time, giving to charity shows that you’re willing to put others first. It also shows that you’re humbled in your success and strive to be a part of something bigger than just what’s happening inside your own home and shop. Plus — what a morale boost for your team.
2. Host in-store events
Stating the obvious here, but this gets people in your doors. Putting together a networking event allows you to meet your neighbors and for them to meet each other. You don’t have to play host; think about simply donating your space for local groups to meet once a month.
3. Sponsor a local sports team
Youth sports teams abound, this type of advertising is priceless. The exposure from having your logo on the T-ball jersey of a U8 team or a coed kickball team that meets after work is consistently beneficial.
4. Host a food/clothing/gift drive
You know every competitor in town. You’ve got a mutual respect for one another and you just want to make an impact on your community. Why not join forces to host a drive for the greater good? I’m certain there’s some old product in the stock room that could use a good home. Donate trinkets and encourage local families to donate clothing and food.
5. Attach to a cause/foundation
Are you passionate about domestic violence, pet shelters or feeding children? Serve on a local board, become a member of the Chamber of Commerce, or have your staff join you in signing up for a club or association in your neighborhood. This is a good way to get yourself known as an individual around your community. Not only will you make new friends (customers), but you’ll also grow more influential as time passes.