Keeping shoppers local
Published 9:37 pm Tuesday, November 20, 2018
Business initiative capitalizes on Small Business Saturday and beyond
An Albert Lea Economic Development Agency program is working to help small businesses step into the spotlight this holiday season.
After originally planning to capitalize on the national Small Business Saturday effort on Nov. 24, ALEDA Interim Executive Director Noelle Hagen said the two-week Shop Local initiative beginning that Saturday will take it one step further.
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Hagen visited small businesses downtown to see how interested they would be in participating by putting a sign in their windows downtown as part of a branded campaign — “that’s all I was going to do,” Hagen said. As part of those visits, Hagen stopped at the Freeborn County Arts Initiative and spoke with Elisha Andrew Marin and Susanne Crane.
“They liked the idea of promoting Small Business Saturday and then brought forward the idea about doing some kind of passport,” Hagen said.
In the Shop Local passport world, small businesses are like countries. Customers or browsers can receive a stamp in their passport just for walking through the door — no purchase necessary, Hagen said. By the end of two weeks, those passports can be handed in for a chance at a prize.
“The passport is what will get people to take themselves into the businesses and actually be there physically,” Hagen said.
Passports do not have to be completely filled by turn-in. Hagen said the purpose is to make meaningful visits. By not requiring purchases to receive a stamp or mark in their passports, the effort is more accessible for all budgets to participate in. The intention is to bring people back to the businesses they may not have visited for a while, or to send them through the door of one they may not have yet explored.
“Maybe on your way out the door, you might see something that catches your eye that you’ll remember, ‘I’m going back to that store sometime,’” Hagen said.
Andrea Strom of Junktion Market said she was excited to hear about the Shop Local initiative.
“Our logo is ‘vintage, handmade and local,’ so it just kind of fits along with our whole mission,” Strom said.
She said the initiative is a way to support the vendors Junktion Market has in its store, which include local artisans.
“We wanted to support them and they’re supporting us, and I think we strongly believe that it’s important to shop local and support this community,” Strom said.
For Hagen, Shop Local is also a reminder of the retail options Albert Lea offers.
“Just because we don’t have a large big box retail at this moment, we have a lot of great small businesses to shop from,” she said.
Even if the effort doesn’t mean retailers see a huge revenue jump this quarter over last year, Hagen said Shop Local still offers exposure that could carry through the rest of the year.
“I think that I’m just really excited to see a lot of our local stores trying to work together to keep shoppers in the community,” Strom said.
Hagen said the community has already provided traction on the new Shop Albert Lea Facebook page.
“We’re getting the community excited,” she said.
After this year, she is hopeful this effort becomes something the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce can build on should things go well. The chamber is involved in helping promote Shop Local this year.
Strom encouraged community members to put a local emphasis on their purchasing power.
“I think people need to make a conscious effort and really think about what they’re looking for,” Strom said. “You know, I hear a lot about ‘There’s nowhere to shop in town or it’s too expensive … I’m hoping this kind of gives it a good kick, a good kick-start, I guess.”
Those who wish to participate can pick up their passports at the Freeborn County Arts Initiative during open hours on Nov. 24. Hagen said ALEDA will print 300 passports. If all 300 are not claimed on Small Business Saturday, they will become available at the Albert Lea Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“Everybody should try it — and it doesn’t have to be that Saturday — but everybody in the community should try to do some local shopping, especially at this time of year,” Hagen said.
Participating Shop Local businesses
Freeborn County Arts Initiative
It’s Worth it Massage
Frames R Us
Homestead Design (at Dinah’s Style)
Albert Lea Art Center
Broadway Home Design
Tiger City Sports
Martin Cycle and Fitness
Albert Lea Seed House
Raleigh’s Ace Hardware
Albert Lea CVB
The Pet Authority
The Color Wheel
Plymouth Shoes Store
* More businesses were expected to be added after press time.