Ask SCORE: Independent Retailer Month is an opportunity

Published 8:40 pm Friday, July 15, 2022

Ask SCORE by Dean Swanson

Did you know that this is Independent Retailer Month? According to their website, “it is a shop local event that runs annually throughout July encouraging consumers to shop at independent retailers; highlighting their positive social and economic impact — locally, nationally and globally.”

Dean Swanson

They encourage people to shop independent retail year round and to use July as a time to celebrate the independent retailers that help build our economy; creating more sustainable cities, towns and communities.

By engaging independent retailer associations, small business organizations and retail thought leaders, their aim is to demonstrate the importance of shopping independent. 

Independent Retailer Month was born from the collaboration of two very different individuals who share a common desire to celebrate independent retailers around the globe. In 2003 Tom Shay, principal of Profits Plus, created a holiday, National Independent Retailer Week, to show retailers how they could create celebrations for their communities, industries and own businesses.  In 2009 social entrepreneur Kerry Bannigan launched Independent Retail Week, a week-long, citywide experience in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and New Jersey advancing the business of independent fashion retailers. This initiative worked with over 400 retailers, garnered support from the city’s tourism boards, chambers of commerce and mayor’s office; with features on NBC, Fox, ABC and CBS.

Today Independent Retailer Month encourages consumers to celebrate the independent retailers that are the backbone of our communities and engages independent retailer associations and local officials to promote shop local campaigns.

This provides an excellent opportunity for local small businesses to feature and promote their business. Brett Farmiloe, one of SCORE’s content partners (and founder and CEO of Terkel.io) collected several good examples of how small businesses can leverage this concept. Here are a few of his contributions:

Reach out to your local media. Independent Retailer Month is more in the mainstream these days, and journalists in your area likely want to cover it! Scoring screen time on the local news station or morning TV/ radio show can be a way to promote your products and services, but don’t forget your town’s local old-school newspaper, too! Since many reporters want to shine their lights on independent businesses during July anyway, there’s no reason you can’t be the star of their shows. — Erin Banta, Pepper

Collaborate with local stores to host events and discounts.  Make the most out of Independent Retailer Month by collaborating with fellow local independent retailers in hosting contests, events or discounts throughout the month.

Collaborating with other local stores is an excellent way to extend your reach to their network while returning the favor simultaneously. Collaboration is my go-to strategy during Independent Retailer Month and has helped me grow my network significantly. We always acquire many new customers through word-of-mouth from other stores, which is an excellent boost to our marketing. — Brogan Renshaw, Modelers Central

Raise awareness. Although Independent Retailer Month has been taking place in July for nearly 20 years now, many people still don’t know about it. So this year, like every year, raising awareness is critical. I would suggest taking a multi-pronged approach to creating buzz and making the most of the opportunity. For one, I would leverage email marketing. To the extent you have an email database of local customers, use it! Bring inactive users back with discounts and make everyone aware of the positive social and economic impacts shopping locally can have. 

I would also leverage the warm summer months and many events that happen in early summer to advertise the event. Sponsor banners on Little League fields, post flyers around town and consider paying local kids out of school for summer to drop off flyers on doors. You can do a million little things to raise awareness for Independent Retailer Month, and I wouldn’t lean too heavily on one approach. — John Ross, Test Prep Insight

Hold a contest. Hold a contest with a product giveaway during Independent Retailer Month. It’s a great way to draw attention to your business and get customers to visit your website and social media. We had a lot of success doing this around Father’s Day, with a giveaway of one of our 20-Quart Rotomolded Coolers. We filled the cooler with Starburst candies and invited dads to guess how many Starbursts were inside it. The dad with the closest guess won the cooler. It was a lot of fun and drove a lot of clicks to our website. It would be a great idea to do something similar for Independent Retailer Month. — Marcus Hutsen, Patriot Coolers

Implement a points program. Instead of a blanket sale or discount, try a points program; for example, the more you spend, the bigger the discount. Doing this will encourage shoppers to make bigger purchases rather than just giving discounts on all small purchases. Both large and small discounts are incentives, but a points program will increase your sales margins much more significantly. Plus, more products give customers more reason to love your store and become return shoppers. — Eric Elggren, Andar

Donate to social initiatives.   By donating a percentage of the purchase price of July sales to your social initiatives invites customers to join in on your good deeds. And you can generate more excitement in your community by selecting a local charity that shares your passion. Customers will feel inclined to share your efforts on their social media channels when they see your business supporting folks in need or raising awareness for issues in your area, which will help spread the word. It may even get your good works featured on local media outlets, drawing more attention to your cause and driving more foot traffic to your business. — Maria Shriver, MOSH

Dean L. Swanson is a volunteer certified SCORE mentor and former SCORE chapter chair, district director and regional vice president for the northwest region.