From the news columns you will glean that the My Shop Is Your Shop campaign has taken a huge step forward by extending National Independents’ Day and converting it into National Independents’ Week (NIW) from June 4 next year.
This is a massive development for the total wholesale/independent sector, giving suppliers and wholesalers in the first instance a new and major platform for PR, promotional and marketing support for the family business and sole trader retailer.
But first, the immediate task is to begin to understand the opportunities which are available to the sector for building the profile of the locally owned store at Christmas.
Meeting demands for another activity peak following the establishment of NID, a new Caring At Christmas (CAT) campaign will highlight the special value of the local independent at the festive season.
CAT is based on the range of goodwill actions which many thousands of independents undertake at Christmas – activities based on localness and the two-way interaction of retailer and customer at this “social” time of the year.
For example many retailers offer a glass of sherry to customers or a chocolate from a gift box on the counter – or a mince pie. Some will deliver to old folk who are not so mobile. Others will have special collections for local charities or old folks’ homes.
There are hundreds of thousands of people, young but mostly old, as well as vulnerable single mums and people down on their luck who are alone at Christmas.
The local independent shop may be the only place where they have any social contact at all at Christmas.
CAT is designed by MSYS to help the retailer to package his Christmas goodwill community activities.
CAT will encourage independents to promote their store at Christmas as a crucial element in the community, at the centre of that community and helping local people in a way which is unique and can not be replicated, for obvious corporate reasons, by multiple retailers.
CAT will encourage independent retailers to promote their Christmas activities in the local and regional media.
The handing out of mince pies in a local shop will not interest the local newspaper, but where a retailer helps lonely old folk in any way at Christmas, or raises money or collects gifts for a local hospital children’s ward.
These are “soft” but seasonal stories which interest the media and can contribute to independent retailers’ profiles and awareness by the consumer.
MSYS is setting up its own CAT Media helpline in the immediate run up to the festive season. This is how it will work. Wholesalers should encourage their retailers to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org giving a very brief description of how they are helping their local community at Christmas – the more unusual the better.
They may be helping someone down on their luck, or providing seasonal cheer in a special way at a local hospital or old folks’ home or helping a local charity. They should include their phone number and shop address.
MSYS will then use its resources to alert the retailer’s local media to the most interesting story or the happening.
This is the first time that the involvement of the locally owned store and the community has been given a boost at Christmas and future years will build on this first endeavour.
CAT is a concept designed to further the image building of the independent retailer at the centre of the local community. It can help to drive footfall. It can provide a platform for promotion of the business through the local and regional media.
Wholesalers can promote the concept to their customers through their normal customer communication networks. Wholesalers can identify retailers who carry out good works at Christmas and who are nervous about getting their story into the local media. Wholesalers and MSYS can help them to do so.
=== some christmas ideas ===
These are some examples of Christmas “goodwill” activities which will help the independent retailer to build local profile.
l Collections for local charities/old folks’ homes
l Funding toy gifts for local hospital children’s wards
l Delivering to local old folk or sick
l Donating products for hampers for charity
l “Looking out” for people who are alone at Christmas
l Sponsorship of Christmas activities at local schools
l Offering a glass of wine/sherry/chocolates to locals
l Christmas cards for customers
l Invite local MP to visit the store to show support
l Invite local mayor/councillors to participate in goodwill activities
l Invite local radio station to use store for live festive spot
l Invite local TV as above
l Always inform your local newspaper of activities
l Construct special Christmas notice board to inform community of all local Christmas and New Year activities
l Sponsor local community Christmas tree
=== MSYS GETS ITS OWN CHRISTMAS GREETINGS CARD ===
The FWD Caring At Christmas campaign, a new element in the My Shop Is Your Shop community project, will have a special Christmas card.
The card can be used by independent c-stores, newsagents and rural shops who will download it from the MSYS website. It will feature the new Caring At Christmas logo.
MSYS chairman Alan Toft said: “Retailers can send the card to their customers with their own special message. Caring At Christmas is designed to encourage retailers to increase their involvement with their local community during the festive season.”
Wholesalers are being provided with an A4 leaflet for their own individual Christmas links into the Caring At Christmas campaign and an A3 poster will also be available for display in cash and carries.
Toft added: “Community means business. Christmas means business. Independents are being encouraged to use their close neighbourly interface with their customers in a context of goodwill.
“This means looking out for the old and lonely, helping local charities and old folks’ clubs, delivering to the not-so-mobile and so on. A glass of sherry or a mine pie offered to the shopper will spread the goodwill message.
“If independents are putting on something special for their customers at Christmas, or helping the community in an interesting way, Caring At Christmas is an encouragement for them to inform their local TV, radio or newspaper to add to their local profile.
“Thousands of people spend Christmas alone. A visit to the local store may be the only human contact they have at Christmas. It’s one more reason to remind local communities of the value of the family owned local c-store, newsagent and rural shop.”
Readers can download the Christmas card from [http://www.myshopisyourshop.co.uk]
=== NFRN North West Trade Show ===
The NFRN North West Trade Show, held at the Manchester City stadium, attracted many members and supporters of the My Shop Is Your Shop campaign, which had a stand at the show.
Pictured are (left) Alan Toft, chairman of MSYS, and David Kirwin, NFRN council member and Manchester newsagent, who is also the NFRN delegate to the FWD PR Action Group (PRAG ) which drives the MSYS campaign.
For the sake of unity, Alan Toft (a lifelong City supporter) and David Kirwin (a United fan) put their soccer interests on one side as they welcomed retailers to the MSYS stand where T-shirts and balloons were among the giveaways.
David expressed his support for the campaign and his good wishes for the success of the first National Independents’ Week, which will take place from June 4th to 11th in 2007.