Independents Get Weird to Compete
By George Anderson
One person’s unique is another’s weird. Either way, it’s not the same-old-same-old and independent retailers in small and medium-size markets across the U.S. want consumers to
know that their businesses are the only thing standing between them and a landscape filled with cookie-cutter chain store sameness.
Billboards and bus cards are going up in communities such as Austin, Tex. and Louisville, KY. urging locals to “keep their hometown weird.”
As told in a message on The Louisville
Store Web site, “Keep Louisville Weird is a grassroots public awareness campaign, recently and quietly begun by a small but growing coalition of independent Louisville business
owners who are concerned with the spreading homogenization of our hometown.”
To “Keep Louisville Weird,” consumers are urged to “patronize independent, locally-owned businesses wherever and whenever possible, and encourage others to do the same.”
A similar program in Raleigh, N.C. titled “Raleigh Un-Chained” has attempted to educate consumers on the value of shopping at local businesses. According
to the Raleigh Un-Chained Web site, “Shopping locally keeps nearly three times as much of your money in your community
than shopping at chain stores,” which means more money is put into local jobs and public services such as schools, roads, etc.
One of the founders of the “weird” movement, David Bolduc, owner of the Boulder Book Store in Boulder, Colo., told The Associated Press the campaign isn’t intended to
paint chain stores as the bad guy but to make consumers aware of what local businesses mean to an area’s identity.
“The point is to bring into the conversation how things are being homogenized,” he said.
Ellen Tolley, a spokesperson for the National Retail Federation (NRF), believes chains and independents can successfully co-exist. In many cases, chain stores may be good for
local businesses as well as shoppers. “Consumers are after good values,” she said. “They may go to the large store for everyday items, then stop in the smaller store for that
special item or gift.”
Moderator’s Comment: Are most locally-owned, independent retail businesses in your area unique enough to support the claims made by the “Weird” campaign?
What does it take for a retailer to be really weird? Which independent retailers are on your weirdest list? –
George Anderson – Moderator