Shopping small is big

We’re less than one week away from the flood gates opening on the busiest shopping season of the year. If the past few months of retail sales continue in the same direction, retail experts might be right in thinking — “The American Consumer is Back”.   Retail sales climbed again in October marking four consecutive months of gains, noted the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA).

“Although still cautious and in search of value, the American consumer has returned,” said RILA President Sandy Kennedy.

Lately I’ve noticed a greater emphasis on shopping local than ever before. Several new initiatives have bubbled up to encourage consumers to spend money in the small retail shops in their communities.

Two new projects launched this year — ShopMIDowntown Challenge & Small Business Saturday have joined the efforts of the 3/50 Project started in March of 2009. Personally, I applaud each of these projects.

ShopMiDowntown, sponsored by the Michigan Main Street Center, challenges Michigan’s residents to spend 75% of their holiday shopping dollars in downtowns. They’re asking people to post pictures and video of their favorite downtown stores to a Facebook page. People who post pictures or video will be entered into a random drawing to win an overnight stay at one of several popular lodgings in the state.

The campaign was  organized to raise awareness that Michigan residents’ purchases, particularly during the holiday season, can positively impact their local economy. Bottom line — shopping local creates jobs. A good enough reason, wouldn’t you say?

The Saturday following Thanksgiving is now dubbed — Small Business Saturday. American Express has launched a campaign designating Small Business Saturday as the third most popular shopping day of the holiday season, wedged between Black Friday & Cyber Monday. The initiative was created to “rally support of the small businesses we love.” November 27, 2010 is the first-ever Small Business SaturdaySM. Mark your calendars in the years to come. This is the day hit the streets and shop the mom & pop shops in your town.

This national movement is poised to take off. Already American Express has generated support from more than a dozen advocacy, public and private organizations in declaring the Saturday after Thanksgiving as Small Business Saturday. And, the number of “likes” on their Facebook page is a sure sign of success. In less than a week, they generated more than 150,000 likes … currently 657,528 people like their page. As an added bonus, American Express has promised to donate $1 for every like to Girls Inc. to teach young women to be the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

The 3/50 Project is the oldest of these shop local programs, but I love the story of how this was started the best. Cinda Baxter founded 3/50 in March 2009 by accident, she says. Seeing a series of TV shows in a one-week period touting the importance of consumer spending on the local economy, Baxter was lead to create 3/50.

Basically, the campaign asks people to “pick 3, spend $50 – save your local economy.” The message Baxter drives home in asking folks to pick their three favorite local retailers and commit to spending $50 a month at these shops is the real difference even one person can have in impacting the local economy.

“If half the employed population spent $50 each month in locally owned independent businesses, it would generate more than $42.6 billion in revenue.”

Another compelling fact Baxter points out through campaign …

“For every $100 spent in locally owned independent stores $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures. If you spend that at national chains only $43 stays here. Spend it online and nothing comes home.”

I can think of far more than three local retailers I’d add to my list of favorites, and that’s just in downtown Mt. Pleasant. In making my shopping list for the holidays, I promise to do whatever gift buying I can locally. How about you?

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Stories tell it best

I should start by saying I’m a sucker for stories. I’m a firm believer in the fact that everybody has a story. And, I love reading, listening and telling stories. So, my recent discovery of a couple universities that have launched efforts to collect stories from their alumni, well I have to admit, I find it kind of intriguing.

Recently, in catching up with PR friend Mike Silverthorn, I was introduced to Alma College’s “My Experience” project. http://www.alma.edu/flash/student.php Recognizing that the best way to showcase the best of itself, Alma is asking students and alumni to share in their own words what it’s like to earn a degree at Alma. The initiative is in its early stages and not yet widely promoted, but so far there are nearly a dozen stories collected on Alma’s website. Student and alumni stories are told in a collection of photos and videos. Very effective and compelling, if you ask me. Mike says they plan to continue adding to the collection of personal experiences, so stay tuned.

Driving down US 127 toward E. Lansing, which I’ve been doing fairly frequently with a daughter who’s a sophmore at MSU, I’ve seen a billboard saying “Everyone has a saga” and suggesting Spartans “share their saga”. It caught my attention and I couldn’t help but wonder what this Spartan saga thing was all about. What it is is pretty cool. MSU is collecting the stories of Spartans — alumni, students, faculty and staff. The Spartans Saga site http://spartansagas.msu.edu/your-sagas/ is a few steps further along than Alma College. They’ve gathered hundreds of sagas and have a page dedicated to nominating Spartans for the university to get in touch to tell their saga. Told through video, photos and words, the collection of stories are real words from real people, all of whom share a love for the place where they got their start … @ MSU. I’m looking forward to reading, listening and sharing these stories!

Figured it out – Ahhh ha moment

So, I’ve been contemplating this blog & trying to figure out what I have to say that’d be of any value to anyone. In my quest, recently attended Social Media Club of Great Lakes Region and had an “ah ha” moment. Blogger Becks Davis suggested … in deciding what/who you want to be in the blogsphere to consider what you’re passionate about. Got me thinking … & made me realize the obvious. I am passionate about mid-Michigan and all the great things happening throughoiut the region, which is exactly what we dig up and publish every other Wednesday in http://www.visionmidmichigan.com

You could call it a “duh” moment. But, I got goose bumbs, so I know it was right. So, going forward … you can expect posts on the innovative stuff being done by creative people in and aroud mid-Mich.

This week in particular, I’ve met a handful of people who are invovled in all kinds of cool and interesting things. Rest assured I’ll be sharing their stories … and the stories of many others I encounter every single day.

If you encounter interesting peole doing innovative, interesting things in mid-Mich, please let me know. I’d love to share their stories.

I Voted – badge of pride

Starting several years ago, can’t say how many, upon submitting your voting ballot you received a sticker saying “I Voted”. A small, simple statement slapped onto your lapel allowing you to boldly show off the fact that you fulfilled your civic duty. Funny how long we’d wear this little sticker. I recall peeling it off when changing into pjs at end of the day.

Today after submitting my ballot I was given a sticker and I wore it proudly.  But this time, I also unlocked the “I Voted 2010” badge on #foursquare and “liked” the “Vote button on Facebook announcing the fact that I voted in the election.

I see these badges and buttons as the new version of that small, simple “I Voted” sticker … each providing that same chance to boldly show off the fact that you’ve fulfilled your duty as a U.S. citizen.

I wore each of these proudly today (and even slapped an “I Voted” sticker on my youngest son who joined me in voting booth). How did you show off fulfilling your civic duty today?