Greater Victoria merchants band together for Think Local program

Loyalty card program to be test marketed in region in 2015

Victoria businesses are asking the public to keep their dollars at home during the third Think Local Week starting Dec. 1.

Think Local First Victoria is an initiative consisting of Greater Victoria merchants that aims to encourage residents to shop at local businesses.

“The primary focus of Think Local Week is to educate the public on the benefits of buying local,” said Gayle Robinson, president of Think Local First Victoria and owner of Robinson’s Outdoor Store in downtown Victoria.

“When you spend 10 per cent of your money locally, 25 per cent more stays in Victoria.”

Through promotion in all participating businesses, Robinson hopes Think Local Week will raise the profile of area retailers. “I think Victoria has a huge appetite for supporting local businesses,” she said.

Russ Benwell is a board member with Think Local First and co-owner of Red Barn Market, which has four stores in the region, including one at Latoria Walk in Colwood.

He said the program has been well received so far and helps prove that people appreciate the opportunity to support local merchants.

He recalled working for Thrifty Foods some years ago when that company was rapidly expanding.

“I remember research being done that said they had a market share of something like 50 per cent,” he said.

“We want to promote the independents, which is not to say there isn’t a place for the big-box stores. But where they can, we encourage (shoppers) to make that choice to support the locally owned retailers.”

Nigel Brown, vice-president of Think Local First Victoria and owner of Ruffell & Brown Window Fashions, said local businesses create a unique, competitive shopping experience in a community.

“The biggest misconception is a lot of people think local independent businesses are not competitive in terms of pricing,” Brown said.

“Not only are we competitive, but you get a lot more service and other benefits you might not get at some of the other places.”

Along with creating awareness, Think Local First will also be hosting a social media campaign, in which it will be giving away $1,000 in gift cards throughout the week via Facebook and Twitter.

In the new year, Think Local First Victoria will be launching a new loyalty card campaign.

Think Local First has more than 165 member businesses in Greater Victoria, 20 of which will be used as a test for the pilot project. Shoppers can use the card at any of the participating businesses, where they will earn points on purchases. Those points can then be redeemed online for products or gift cards, for example.

“It’s not something that’s normally available for smaller business,” Brown said. “It will encourage consumers to support local businesses.”

The idea came out of Portland’s Supportland program. “We will be the first Canadian launch,” Robinson said.

For more information, visit thinklocalvictoria.com or facebook.com/ShopLocalVictoria.

editor@goldstreamgazette.com