Buy Local press conference - at the mall?

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It's not April first yet, so I couldn't really stop my jaw from dropping to the ground on this one: The Richmond-Wayne County Chamber of Commerce and the City of Richmond will be holding a press conference tomorrow afternoon to promote buying local - to be held at the mall, which is predominantly occupied by chain stores.

It seems like QUITE an unfortunate juxtaposition to me to have this kind of announcement in that kind of setting.

Malls like the Richmond Square Mall certainly provide great shopping opportunities, but tend to be populated by businesses that are not locally owned and that give less back to the local economy and community over the long run than businesses that are locally owned. In most "buy local" campaigns across the country, one of the primary goals is to get shoppers to expand their notion of shopping opportunities beyond "the mall" to once again consider what small business districts and downtowns have to offer.

If Richmond residents think that buying local just means going to a shop within city limits, the potential impact of the buy-local message is diluted as their dollars leave the community for corporate headquarters elsewhere.

I asked the Chamber and Mayor's office to reconsider the venue - feel free to do the same if you're so inclined.

5 thoughts on “Buy Local press conference - at the mall?

  1. As the Pal-Item story says: "The more dollars that are spent with local retail, service, construction and other types of businesses, the more likely those businesses are to be able to retain jobs and experience growth, Chamber officials say." For the Chamber I'm betting it's about the jobs & tax dollars more than the brand name. And keeping business--*any* business--in Richmond, is preferable to having an empty shell of a mall, at least in the eyes of the local business community. I agree that locally owned businesses should be highlighted and fiercely promoted, and the so-called "uptown" area or the Depot district would be a better choice to hold the press conference. But with the government, as I think we're gonna see with Obama, it moves in small increments. Sometimes you've gotta take what you can get, and hope that the local fever spreads to locally owned businesses once you convince folks that you can stay in Richmond and get everything you need. Plus, I'm gonna guess that the mall has a good amount of pull in the local Chamber. Is it possible that rising the tide of the mall lifts all ships? At least it's a start, even if it's a small one.

  2. Travis - I think it's a good point to say that having any kind of "buy local" activity here feels like a good thing and a step in the right direction, and I will try to say more about that part soon.

    I do think there are some important pieces of the effort that you have to get right from the start, however, or else it can set you up to fail or have limited impact for the long term. Promoting a buy local message that doesn't distinguish between supporting businesses that are geographically local and businesses that are actually locally owned and operated seems to me to be one of these key moments that may set the rest of the effort up for problems if not done "right." This is why I paid so much attention to this choice of venue.

    But wherever the press conference is held, you're right that it's something to celebrate, and something to start other conversations (like this one) that can be impactful.


  3. The reality is that the $ is brought in for the chamber folks by outside development coming to town - real estate agents, builders, etc. Local folks opening up businesses in existing structures downtown or at the depot does not ring bells with those folks.

    Also, since the only real "press" to be attracted to a "press conference" for this type of issue is the Pal-Item, the venue is very appropriate - As we saw with the Arboretum deal, the Pal-Item lives on its advertising, an they need the keep the flow of new retail coming into town to keep the ad dollars flowing.

  4. Maybe we can ride the coat tails of this one and start and alternative (or complimentary) buy local movement. I'm sure there are at least some local business owners who would get on board--since it helps them, and could offer a cool space for a follow-up press conference. Is there even a buy local group or campaign in Richmond? Now could be a good time to start one.

  5. I'm in agreement with Mr. Kemp. Although I may take his point further and speculate that the Chamber isn't confused at all and actually *wants* to define "buy local" as "buy within the city limits" or "buy within Wayne County." That way, they get the benefit of sounding sorto progressive without alienating the chain stores and restaurants.

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