Businesses Drum Up Support for Shopping Local

Businesses Drum Up Support for Shopping Local

Madison’s long been a locally minded town. Supporting hometown businesses just seems to be a part of the city’s identity, along with farmers’ markets and bikes and lakes. But the shop-local movement is growing up, taking on a larger stature as an economic development tool as much as community quirk, and it’s spreading to communities large and small across the U.S. The number of community campaigns and independent business alliances nationwide is steadily growing, and this increase in numbers is coupled with a change in message: that shopping local isn’t just about boosting morale or supporting your neighbors; it’s about pumping money into the local economy, which is proven to recirculate at a higher rate than if the purchase were made at a chain store or through a massive online retailer. Perhaps this higher return is part of the reason that small businesses are the most trusted institution in the country, ahead of churches and universities and, perhaps unsurprisingly, large corporations, according to a recent survey from the Pew Center. 

The holiday shopping season can be a tough one for local and independent shops. The growth of big-box chains and online mega-retailers has presented a convenient and often cheaper way for consumers to work through their gift-giving checklists, especially on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. In an effort to bolster independent retailers, American Express launched “Small Business Saturday,” held on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, back in 2010. The campaign is meant to encourage consumers to patronize the independent shops that play such an important role in local economies, and it’s been a hit on social media—look for the hashtag #smallbizsaturday

It’s growing, too, with a reported $5.7 billion spent at independent merchants during Small Business Saturday last year, up 3.6 percent from 2012. 

This campaign also shows how the shop-local movement has evolved. If a massive financial company like Amex is joining in, you know it’s more than a trend. There’s a business interest here. And that’s a good thing. 

Park Bank president and CEO Jim Hegenbarth explains a new program meant to encourage local shopping

What is Buzz Points? Park Bank’s Buzz Points Rewards Program is a free feature that is linked to a Park Bank debit card. Those enrolled in the program earn points automatically through their debit card purchases that can be redeemed easily for gift cards, cash cards and donations to local nonprofits. Right now we have close to thirty merchants in Dane County who offer bonus points, including Lane’s Bakery and Coffee, Terry’s Car Care, Alt n’ Bach’s Town Tap, Roman Candle Pizzeria and Madison Lighting. 

What are the benefits of the program for local businesses? Buzz Points gives local, small business owners access to technologies, insights and customer segmentation tools that would otherwise be out of reach in terms of cost (both the cost of the technology and the cost to employ staff to read the data and create targeted offers for customers). The program helps merchants increase loyalty and market reach while attracting new customers. Relevant offers are based on purchase behavior and sent to local customers through email, social media, the web and a mobile app. 

How is Buzz Points different than other customer loyalty programs? Buzz Points focuses on community financial institutions and local merchants to engage customers. The focus on community and local merchants is unique.

How does a loyalty program like this impact the local economy? Simply put, more money stays in communities when consumers shop locally. Communities, consumers and local commerce are all elevated when the local business scene is vibrant and thriving.