Stories

‘Love Your Local’ push supports Small Business Saturday shopping

12/01/2020

TaMaryn Waters, Tallahassee Democrat

The Tallahassee-Leon County Office of Economic Vitality (OEV) has three words for residents this year — Love Your Local. 

Sounds simple, but the sentiment when put into action can plunge desperately needed dollars into Tallahassee’s bruised economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.  

OEV Director Cristina Paredes said the “Love Your Local” concept is about spreading support to all Tallahassee-based businesses, including auto shops and restaurants. To survive, they’ve offered curbside and delivery services, appointment viewings and more. 

“It’s all about helping people to really embrace our locally owned businesses,” Paredes said. “We have heard from many business owners who say they’ve worked harder than ever these last several months, were forced to close and then limited reopening.”

Three years ago, OEV kicked off its shop local campaign at the Betton Place Shopping Center, site of the devastating 2018 mass shooting where a gunman shot six women, fatally killing Nancy Van Vessem and Maura Binkley.

This year’s “Love Your Local” theme is generating wide support from local businesses who pledging to pitch yard signs with OEV’s slogan. OEV is posting videos and interviews of local businesses on its social media platforms using #LoveYourLocal.

Considering the unprecedented year it’s been, small business owners say they can use all of the love they can get. 

Coton Colors Owner Laura Johnson said the lifestyle boutique was forced to adapt its business model with new strategies to serve customers. 

“What we are really, really good at is connecting with those customers and trying to figure out what it is that they’re needing,” Johnson said. “Sometimes it’s stressful to shop. Sometimes it’s about trying to find the right gift, and sometimes they’re looking to do something different in their home.”

Johnson said the store offers services customers may not find in other stores. For example, items can be personalized with the brand’s signature design. She’s hoping the discerning attention to detail and customer service will bode well.

The holiday season, she said, is crucial for retailers like herself since the majority of her revenue takes place in the fourth quarter. Johnson said small business depends on small-town shoppers.

“We gear up all year for this time of year,” Johnson said. “The coronavirus was difficult because our doors were shut for a good portion of the spring. We pivoted and offered curbside delivery and personalized online shopping. We just really opened up our opportunities for customers to shop however they like to shop.”

Coton Colors has continued its wholesale operation to boutiques and department stores nationwide while also expanding its brand with a new store in Tampa, the second location in that city.

The new store sells Coton Colors’ signature Happy Everything line next door to the existing store.

Parades said Love Your Local campaign pushes the local connection residents adore and say makes Tallahassee unique. And, for many businesses, a significant amount of their revenues is directly tied to the holiday season.

For many, this may be a make or break season.

Paredes said for every $1 spent in Tallahassee, 65 cents stays in the local economy.

“That’s huge impact,” she added. “That means a lot to the people those businesses employ. It means a lot to our community. We often ask these businesses for donations for schools or nonprofit support, so it really is important for us to turn around and support them as well.”

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