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Being Part of the Community
For both consumers and retailers, there’s an appeal to being a part of the community fabric, says Lavelett. For one, it makes an economic difference.
Local First Utah is making headway in its effort to encourage Utah consumers to shift spending just 10 percent to local businesses, saying that small shift would keep approximately $1.3 billion in the Utah economy each year. “When you buy from a locally owned business, you’re supporting your neighbors and community,” says Lavelett. “You’re creating a better quality of life for everyone involved in Utah, rather than saving a few pennies in your own pocket.”
Local First Utah partners with hundreds of companies across the state to manage local first campaigns, such as Independents Week, around the 4th of July, and Shift Your Spending during the holiday shopping season. The organization also provides social media e-kits and other marketing collateral to its members.
For the retailers, that local connection is not just economically important, but also philosophically. The King’s English Bookshop, for example, supports local fundraising by bringing in authors for signings and donating books. It works with other shops and restaurants in the 15th and 15th block to organize community events. And its own building—which Holman affectionately describes as a funny little old house that is surprisingly larger on the inside in an Alice-in-Wonderland sort of way—has become a community gathering place, where locals come to connect and spend time together.
As Utah companies look ahead, they admit the competition from large e-commerce retailers is daunting, but not overwhelming. Companies like Jane.com and Eleventh Avenue say they will continue to turn to their technology teams to introduce new features, track trends and deploy analytics for growth. Retailers like Rod Works will look to what has brought them this far: As Brackett says, “Still the best thing that we’ve found is offering a great product and great service.”
With an old-school blend of dedicated customer service and unique products and an Information Age arsenal of online and social media strategies, the future looks bright for smaller, Utah-based retailers.