The American Revolution was fueled by many factors, among them was a desire for free trade and the power to shape our own destiny. One could argue those motivations are still major drivers for many entrepreneurs. It seems fitting that in July a group of entrepreneurs at The Forum (1125 Military Cutoff Rd.) are celebrating their impendence as independents! Taylor Baysden, who works at Spectrum Art and Jewelry, let me know about their celebration. I was besotted with the idea.
Held July 25th through 31st, the event will be a treasure hunt. People can stop during any of the participating businesses’ hours of opration to partake. Attendees can get free prizes at participating stores, and have an opportunity to win a bountiful gift basket and a $600 shopping spree.
encore (e): Tell me how Independent Retailers Month came to your attention?
Taylor Baysden (TB): At Spectrum Art and Jewelry, we receive a number of trade publications. In a recent publication, there was information about Independent Retailers Month. It sounded perfect for The Forum, being it’s the most exclusive independent shopping center in Wilmington. So I looked into it. I found there was a plethora of information, supporters and events across the United States. The idea for the treasure hunt quickly was formed, and I set off to see if everyone else was as excited as I was.
e: How hard was it to get the whole shopping center on board?
TB: We have wonderful, hard-working and very busy business owners and managers in The Forum, so disseminating the event information and getting a response in a timely manner was the greatest challenge. Once I got the information into the right hands, it was obvious most people were excited and wanted to participate. The Forum has wonderful management that was very supportive and helped make this possible. The key was keeping the event simple for the stores and our customers. In the end, we have almost every single independent retailer in The Forum participating.
e: What do you hope the short-term and long-term outcomes will be?
TB: Our short-term hope is that loyal, as well as new customers will come to The Forum, enjoy the event, receive gifts and see what a local gem [it] is! Our long-term hope is that this event will draw awareness to the importance of shopping at local, independent stores. In particular I hope the event introduces new customers to the many unique and owner-operated independent businesses at The Forum. This center is home to a great cross section of high quality independent retailers.
e: Ya’ll are near the Landfall area; how hard is it to get the local message to the masses? Are people receptive?
TB: We have a number of wonderful, local publications that serve our area. They are helping us get the message out there. As well, [we’re using] word of mouth. There never can be enough emphasis put on the importance of referral. If you have local places you love, tell your friends, family and coworkers about them. These are the places that make our community unique, and by referring your friends, you are doing them—as well as your community—a favor. We have a reward and referral program for that very reason: to thank the customers that support us.
e: What do you wish the public knew and understood about small business?
TB: Independent retailers are the backbone of our communities. A dollar spent at an independent retailer is usually spent six to 15 times before it leaves the community. From $1 you create $5 to $14 in value within that community. Buying from an independent retailer boosts your local economy and rebuilds confidence in the community, which enables local businesses to prosper and grow. When you spend $1 at a national chain store, 80 percent of the money leaves town immediately.
I have put a lot of personal emphasis on striving to be a more educated consumer in the last year or two, so this is not just coming from an employee of a local independent retailer, this is a personal goal of mine, as well. There are a lot of things to consider for smart, ethical and economic buying. It can get overwhelming but an easy place to start is to support your local independent retailers. For example, I have committed to buying all of my gifts locally as long as it is available in Wilmington. It’s a small personal step that has a huge impact in your community.
e: What is the small-business environment like at The Forum, as compared to midtown or downtown?
TB: I would say Wilmington is a great environment for small and large independent businesses; midtown, downtown or near the beach, Wilmington really draws people who appreciate what creative thinking business owners and operators bring to the table. The Forum is positioned in a prime location for retail as the Military Cutoff corridor has become quite a well-developed and attended retail area. It caters to not only local independents but also regional- and national-based businesses that provide the full-range of products and services people look for.
One thing that really sets The Forum (and other independent retail centers in the area) apart is the experience. As a tourist area, people look to shopping as recreation, and we are part of that draw. They may visit the big-box stores for staples, but they come to our shops for the stories to share with their friends and family. They love finding unique items and to have the personalized service only an independent business can provide.
e: Will this become an annual event?
TB: If the event is successful and we get good response from our customers, it could become an annual event. As an independent business, it is about meeting the needs and desires of our customers. If they want to do this again, I will do my best to make that happen!
e: How will you gauge success?
TB: I will gauge the event’s short-term success by the number of people participating, as well as customer and store-owner feedback. [As for] long-term, I hope we are creating educated local shoppers. For those results, we will have to wait and see.
e: Are the business owners excited?
TB: The business owners are excited. We are always looking for new ways to engage with our clients and give them the best shopping experience possible. This event allows us to thank them for supporting independent retailers and have some fun while doing it.
e: What would you like to add?
TB: Local independent retailers work hard to give customizable and personal service; it’s what sets them apart, and like I’ve said, it makes our community unique. As a “millennial,” I get the obsession with our cell phones and online shopping. It feels second nature to check eBay or Amazon sometimes, but these online giants will never be a substitute for face-to-face personal service that’s customized to fit your needs. Being in my 20s, I have had many friends get engaged and married in the past few years. Many have asked me about the benefits of buying local versus buying online for discounts. I have explained when you make purchases online for discounts that is the service you are going to receive: a discount experience. When you shop local, you are making lifetime partnerships not just with a business but a local person who is investing in your community.
Come to the Forum Treasure Hunt July 25th through 31st to get free prizes at each participating store, and for the chance to win a gift basket full of goodies and a $600 Forum shopping spree. One lucky local is going to win; it might as well be you!