Campaign encourages residents to shop locally

The “Save Jobs. Shop Local. Spend Now.” campaign, which encourages residents to spend their money at locally owned business rather than the many larger corporations and chain stores in the area, has gotten positive feedback in its early months.

“The community has been very responsive,” said Laura Weis, president and CEO of the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce. “We’ve had a lot of businesses that have adopted the campaign as part of their own marketing (plan).”

Even with that response, though, Weis said that no one can know for certain how successful the campaign has been until sales tax revenue reports are received for the months in which the campaign has been implemented. With the campaign beginning in late February and those reports from the state typically running three months behind, Weis said she expects it to be at least another month before anyone has numbers to back up anecdotal evidence.

“We could do a comparison to where it was last year,” Weis said of evaluating 2008 months against 2009 months. “It’s not going to be an exact science, but that would give us some indication as the campaign progressed, did we see any sort of bump in the sales tax?”

The “Save Jobs. Shop Local. Spend Now.” campaign was an initiative of the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce, but is also in conjunction with the Champaign Downtown Association, the Urbana Business Association, the Mahomet Chamber of Commerce and the Rantoul Chamber of Commerce.

The goal of the campaign is to strengthen the local economy through an increased cash flow, thus keeping more money in the community, which in turn helps save jobs, she said.

Mary Dennis, executive director of the Champaign Downtown Association, said she has been pleased with the progress and local participation in the campaign thus far.

“Every business in downtown Champaign is a locally owned business, so this is a cause that is close to our hearts,” Dennis said. “A lot of different local businesses have been using the slogan.”

Local businesses are referring to the campaign in their advertising, adopting the campaign logo and some are also offering sales to draw customers. One such active business in Champaign is Jos. Kuhn & Co., a men’s clothing store at 33 E. Main St. that has offered 10 percent sales through the campaign program.

Store general manager Gordon Tracey said he has seen an increase in consumers since the campaign started. Along with the campaign, he credits the February closing of Pages for All Ages, a bookstore in Savoy, as opening the community’s eyes in regards to local businesses.

Although the “Save Job. Shop Local. Spend Now.” campaign appears to have been successful so far, Dennis cautions that it will take time before the campaign takes its full effect in the community.

“I think it’s a work in progress,” Dennis said. “I think it’s partly an education process to educate consumers … If you spend a dollar at a locally owned business, then more of that dollar is going to stay in your community, and that helps everybody.”

The best advice for community members, at least from a businessman’s perspective, might have come from Tracey.

“You have to spend money to make money,” he said.