Early on, more than 1,000 shoppers had signed the Chamber’s Shop Local Shift Three Pledge, which was published the Newton TAB and Needham Times, distributed at cash mobs and other events, promoted on cable TV and available for “signing” on the Chamber’s website and on Facebook.
“We’re pulling out all the stops to remind consumers that shopping locally, dining locally and banking locally keeps communities vibrant,” said Newton-Needham Chamber President Greg Reibman.
The campaign officially kicked off Nov. 14 at the Chamber’s Annual Achievement Breakfast at the Needham Sheraton Hotel. Midway through the meeting, more than 350 business and civic leaders stood together and held up copies of a pledge they just signed which simply asks shoppers to “shift three purchases they planned to make online or out of town and buy locally instead.”
Among those signing the pledge that morning were State Treasurer Steve Grossman, a Newton resident and keynote speaker at the breakfast, Newton Mayor Setti Warren and Needham Board of Selectman Chairman Jerry Wasserman.
“This whole issue of shopping local is a trend and a movement,” Grossman said. “This isn’t just an isolated event here in Newton or Needham. This is a movement that is becoming powerful.”
Also addressing the annual meeting was Needham Bank’s Vice President of Marketing Eric Morse, who reminded attendees that committing to your community includes investing locally.
“We each have a vote, or one share, if you will, in shaping the community in which we live,” said Morse said. “Community banks are at the financial epicenter of Newton and Needham. If you believe in buying local, then banking locally should be part of that commitment.”
The Shop Local Shift Three Pledge is the beginning of a longer-term effort by the Chamber designed to promote local commerce. A Chamber committee — including the economic development directors from Newton and Needham — devised the program because research shows that campaigns promoting the benefits of shopping locally can make a big difference.
“This represents a new chapter for the Chamber,” said Reibman. “Most of our programs and services focus on directly serving our 500-plus member businesses. This campaign is designed to reach out to the public on our members’ behalf and on behalf of the entire community.”
The campaign enjoyed a soft launch four days earlier when the Chamber sponsored a “cash mob” in the Newton Village of Auburndale. Close to 50 shoppers, including Mayor Warren and Village Bank President Ken Brennan, gathered outside Just Next Store, an independent gift shop.
After signing the pledge the crowed fanned out across the village, each agreeing to spend at least $10 at a local business.
“It made everyone excited about shopping locally,” Amy Shih, of Just Next Store, told NewTV, adding that merchants in the village “saw an uptick” from the cash mob.
The Chamber sponsored a second cash mob on Dec. 8 in West Newton, and is co-sponsoring a third event on Friday Dec. 14 at 6:30 p.m, in Newton Highlands.
In addition, the Chamber co-sponsored the Newton Cultural Alliance’s second annual Arts Stroll & Shop in Newton Centre, which united merchants, artists and shoppers on Dec. 2 and has been encouraging members to share copies of the pledge — or links to the pledge on Facebook – with colleagues and customers.
At the specific request of the Needham Merchants Association, the Newton-Needham Chamber has not organized any cash mobs in Needham, Reibman said. However, the Chamber has sought to lend promotional support to publicize the NBA’s Discover Needham Local First campaign.
“We’re here to support any efforts that promote the economic and cultural vitality of our communities,” Reibman said. “Even if we change just a few spending habits, we’ll consider this a success.”
Treasurer Grossman believes the shop local focus can and will make a difference on the bottom line.
“When you see the numbers post-Christmas and holiday season exploding in our local communities, you’ll see local entrepreneurs adding jobs,” Grossman said. “That’s really what this is about about.”