Supporting local independent retailers is a sure way to be certain money stays in the community, and many customers are happy to do so. According to the Northwest Earth Institute’s Choices for Sustainable Living, “A dollar spent at a locally owned store is usually spent 6 to 15 times before it leaves the community. From $1, you create $5 to $14 in value within that community.” Yet retailers can’t expect customers to support their buy local campaigns, without verification that the retailer they are supporting is in fact an active, involved and helpful member of the community, local and worldwide. There is value to incorporating a ‘giving back’ strategy and approach, not as an add-on to how you run business at key parts of the year (holiday season), but rather by fully integrating ‘giving back’ as a way of doing business.
Giving Back in Small Ways Can Make a Big Impact
DownEast Home & Clothing (DownEast Outfitters), an independent retail outlet with 46 stores located throughout Utah, Idaho, Arizona, California, Nevada and Washington, exemplifies the strength of charity and philanthropy, making brand loyalty all the stronger while helping a good cause. With the help of nonprofit organization, CHOICE Humanitarian, a village in Guatemala was the beneficiary of DownEast’s charitable outreach. DownEast employees continue to raise funds to support village projects, an amount that DownEast corporate matches, dollar for dollar. Since 2009, the retailer and its employees have contributed more than $60,000 to CHOICE. DownEast even ran a special, “Make the CHOICE” promotional campaign in its stores in May and June to help raise funds for building a new school in its adopted village, raising $7,250. The greatest impact, however, was the hands-on volunteerism from employees, benefiting villagers and employees alike. Volunteers returned to their retail stores with team building and leadership skills that were obtained in a new, interactive and life-changing way. “Any retailer can get involved, whether it be in their local community or on a much larger scale, as DownEast has done. First and foremost you have to make yourself aware of the issues out there and research how you as a retailer can help solve some of them. You want to make sure the resources you are going to donate will make the greatest impact on both the cause and your retail brand,” emphasizes COO of DownEast Outfitters, Rich Israelsen.
While most independent retailers have only enough resources to give back to their local community, that is enough and speaks highly of any retail brand. ROI can’t always be measured in terms of dollars and cents. Philanthropy provides broader benefits such as earning good will with future long term customers, attracting new customers to the brand, and PR. “Retailers have a platform, with a captive audience every day. Independent retailers don’t have to travel across the world or pick a big nonprofit to work with. Handing out brochures and collecting change for a cause is enough to make an impact and to let customers know a thing or two about your integrity,” says CHOICE Humanitarian, Leah Barker.
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