Cambridge retailers are getting some timely TLC courtesy of a programme launched to encourage residents to spend locally.
The initiative, Totally Locally Cambridge, aims to get Cambridge and Leamington people spending more in their own town, to the tune of $10 weekly on independent retailers.
Organisers see a potential $6 million benefit to the town, with a boost to jobs as well as to community.
The programme is the brainchild of Cambridge Chamber of Commerce chief executive Kelly Bouzaid, and comes after a slow winter for retailers.
“It was a tough few months for these guys,” Bouzaid said. “They were significantly down in all sectors including hospitality.
“Everybody talks about the bubble of growth that Cambridge is in, but we are SMEsville and they’re working so bloody hard. So what we try to do is give them the tools to survive.”
The marketing toolkit is being made available free to Chamber members and non-members, totalling about 180 retailers in Cambridge and Leamington. “To make it successful, we wanted to be completely inclusive,” Bouzaid said.
Launched at the start of October with a $10 town campaign, including a range of offers, Totally Locally Cambridge (with the apt initials TLC) is being kept in the public eye through active use of social media, as well as signage, and has been boosted with a “Did you know?” campaign in stores.
Business and professional services have also been included. “There’s not a lot you can’t get here in Cambridge,” Bouzaid said.
Chamber membership coordinator Aroha Croft devoted two months to setting up the initiative, with funding from the Cambridge Community Board.
The Totally Locally concept comes from the UK, where Bouzaid says it was started in response to the impact of big box retailing on smaller towns. She introduced the scheme to New Zealand in Waiheke six years ago. Cambridge is bound to draw attention as the first major town to run the initiative since Geraldine followed in Waiheke’s footsteps. It comes at a time of heightened awareness of the impact of online spending.
The threat is significant, according to new research from Xero, which it says show most Kiwis are sending money offshore with their spending habits, rather than buying local.
Xero said the research found more than half of all Kiwis (53.5 percent) would prefer to buy locally from New Zealand stores. But only a third are actually shopping locally more than half the time.
Cost seems to be the biggest factor, it said – more than two thirds of New Zealanders (69 percent) aren’t willing to pay more than five percent extra to support New Zealand-owned retailers over an international online store.
Bouzaid points to figures showing Cambridge locals spending 54 percent of their money in their own town, and 46 percent outside, based on annual spend by BNZ cardholders.
She has done calculations that show $10 extra weekly to local retailers, instead of online, at supermarkets or in Hamilton, would give the town’s economy a $6 million lift – along with a boost to a sense of community.
“You know, there’s been a question, are we anti-supermarket? No, we’re not, we are just suggesting $10 comes out of a supermarket and maybe goes to the fruit and vege shop or the wine shop to the butcher or whatever.
“And it’s interesting because you have Auntie Joan pick up with Mavis, who she hasn’t seen for ages, and you start to get back to that community-based retail environment.”
Karen May, from Caz Design in Cambridge, echoes Bouzaid’s comments about retailers doing it hard. “When you talk to some of the retailers, there’s been some really hard months.”
Younger people tend to be more driven by price rather than loyalty, she said. “So they’ll flit to Hamilton to buy cheaper.”
The challenge is to get them to see that their actions may affect local retailers.
“If we’re supporting local, the town thrives, which then makes it a vibrant place. It is time to bring it back here.”
Like May, Debbie Simes from Footloose, was involved in a similar campaign, Love Cambridge, initiated when the expressway bypassed the town. She says retailers like herself could see the benefit of Totally Locally.
“I was all for it,” she said. “I think people are probably not aware of how much they can impact on the local economy by just being conscious of making their first initial spend in their local town. And they get that service from town. They are supporting jobs, they are supporting the local economy to grow, the flow-on is huge.”