Advice for councils: Supporting 'Buy Local' initiatives in your region
Small businesses are the lifeblood of our communities and you can help support them through implementing a Buy Local initiative. Encouraging residents and visitors to ‘buy local’ promotes local businesses and can help keep money circulating in your region. Here are some easy to implement ideas to inspire you to start your own Buy Local campaign.
Types of Buy Local initiatives
Local Gift Card
Gift cards that can only be spent at businesses in a certain town are a great way to encourage local spending. These gift cards can be purchased from local vendors or online and given as presents, charity aid or used as raffle prizes. This works especially well when supported by business chamber, Council and large local organisations like charities, clubs and employers.
While each scheme is unique, it generally involves the charitable distribution of cash-style vouchers that can only be spent in a certain town. Local businesses can then exchange the spent vouchers for cash with the organising entity.
Using advertising and marketing material to encourage customers to shop from local businesses is a technique aimed to influence behaviour and promote local businesses. It typically involves using recognisable branding and utilises traditional and social media to spread the message.
Seasonal or event-based promotions
Certain times of the year may bring more people into the region, whether it is seasonal events like Christmas or annual regional events like festivals and parades. Strategic business promotions, discounts and deals during this time can increase local and visitor spend.
Local Procurement policies
Council and larger businesses can lead the way in supporting their region through the implementation of local procurement policies, supporting the consideration of local businesses when considering the acquisition of goods and services.
What makes a successful Buy Local scheme?
Successful schemes should be:
- Coordinated by enthusiastic and committed local organisations (Council, Chamber of Commerce or local business group);
- Comprised of multiple Buy Local initiatives working together;
- Supported by local business leaders;
- Customised to the needs of the community and businesses in the local area;
- Inclusive – not all local small businesses are retail but may still be able to participate; and
- Simple yet effective – have clear messaging that resonates with the customers you want to attract.
First steps in setting up a Buy Local scheme
We recommend that the first step is to set up a meeting between Council, Business Chamber and other organisations, and
- Decide what local means to your community. What businesses should be invited to take part? What would be a useful definition for people receiving gift vouchers or local currency if that is part of the scheme?
- Decide what form your scheme should take. Ideally you would combine a few different initiatives.
- Decide who should lead each part of the Buy Local effort, and who can help support the initiatives. How will it be communicated?
- Estimate a budget and resolve where the funds will come from and who will be responsible for managing them.
- Resolve to consult with your community as you proceed.
Narrabri Why Leave Town gift card
Narrabri was the first town to adopt the Why Leave Town gift card, an initiative created by local resident Ashley Watt that has now spread to more than 20 regions of NSW. This year, mining company Santos donated $40,000 in Why Leave Town gift cards to the Narrabri Lions Club for distribution throughout the Narrabri region. This support will be significant not only for the recipients of the gift cards, but also for the participating businesses across the region.
Coonamble Drought Buster Dollars - community currency
One incredible example of a community currency initiative is in Coonamble. Coonamble Council has created a way to channel charitable donations into support for drought affected residents and local businesses. Individuals can apply for or be nominated to receive $330 that can be spent at any business with an ABN in the Coonamble Shire region.
Bingara Orange Festival - annual event
Gwydir Shire has been holding the Bingara Orange Festival annually since 1998, celebrating the harvesting of a symbolic orange tree with a 50s and 60s themed town-wide festival. 2019 saw around 5,200 people flock to Bingara across one July weekend, bringing an additional $650,000 to the local economy.
The Buy Regional website was set up by the NSW Government and connects customers with small businesses from drought hit towns. Several Councils and other organisations have actively encouraged their businesses to get online and take part, resulting in a big boost to sales.