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The Independents Week Challenge
The Independents Week Challenge
Inside Sandy Litecky's BlueStem crafts store.
Columbia, Mo.

In marketing, timing is everything. Columbia found that out the hard way.

Columbia's local small business advocacy group, the Colors ("Columbia Locally Owned Retail and Services") Alliance, planned a week-long, shop-local campaign. For seven full days, residents were asked to buy every product or service they needed from a local company. Radio and TV ads touted the event, and stores hung signs and sold reusable shopping bags promoting the campaign.

The Colors Alliance thought they'd found the perfect hook, too. Following the suggestion of the American Independent Business Alliance, which organizes similar events around the country, the group scheduled its promotion to run July 1-7, billed as the "Independents Week Challenge."

Catchy name. One problem: Many local stores shortened their hours or closed for the long weekend.

"I thought it would be really easy, but at 7 o'clock on Friday before the Fourth of July, when our keyboard ran out of batteries, I had to think, 'Where do I go to a place that is locally owned?'" says Jennifer Perlow, a Columbia resident and business owner. "It really raised conversations in my family about what is local, because if you have to look at every single thing for a week, you do keep thinking about it."

Perlow didn't see a noticeable jump in sales at her fine art gallery that week. Sandy Litecky, owner of the BlueStem crafts store, also didn't see a revenue increase during the promotion, but she did have more customers dropping into her store, saying they were there because of the event.

"I know there is room to grow, and we will grow next year," says Johanna Cox-Littrell, Colors' executive director. "It will be a celebration of the whole week, possibly with a scavenger hunt with items that customers wouldn't need to buy, but that will get them looking around different stores."

NEXT: The 3/50 Project

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