‘Keep It Local’ Campaign Urges Holiday Shoppers To Support St. Louis’ Small Businesses

As a consumer, Drea Ranek knows that it is really easy to turn to Amazon to buy Christmas gifts. It’s easy, shipping is free, and a low risk option as the coronavirus pandemic worsens.

“But as entrepreneurs, it’s so difficult for us to compete with really big companies who can make it more convenient,” said the owner of Clayton-based clothing boutiques Lusso and 2Lu.

Ranek said 20 years in business at Lusso helped her build a loyal customer base to keep her going during the pandemic. But she said many newer companies are struggling.

That’s why she’s helping lead a new campaign called “Keep It Local” to convince shoppers to support St. Louis small retailers and manufacturers, be it online or in person.

“You can’t compete with the fact that people are afraid to shop in person. You don’t want to get sick. That’s understandable, “she said. “We tried to meet people where they are and how they want to shop.”

Ranek is working with organizations like 314Together, Women’s Creative, Experience Booklet, and Joya on a range of marketing efforts and freebies to sweeten the offer for vacation shoppers.

People are urged to purchase a $ 30 virtual card that will give discounts to more than 150 local businesses that can be used until next March. The proceeds from these cards go directly to Operation Food Search. Ranek said in the first week the campaign sold 350 cards and raised more than $ 11,000 for the organization to fight food insecurity in the area.

The campaign is also giving away cash to shoppers who want to shop locally. Each weekend, three participating shoppers will be selected and will receive either a $ 500 or $ 1,000 gift card. The campaign also uses a street team on Saturdays to find buyers in small businesses and give them $ 100 in cash or a Schnucks gift card.

The campaign raised $ 12,500 in cash from corporate sponsors – including Schnucks, Carrollton Bank, Ameren, Purina and Budweiser Select – to provide the giveaways.

According to Ranek, small businesses can still participate in the campaign.

“Our hearts go out to all retailers at this time of year. In the fourth quarter – December – a lot of retailers are doing business for the whole year, ”she said.

“It’s not always the easy way”

St. Charles-based quilt maker Linda Caplinger has already seen sales increase as a result of participating in the campaign.

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Bee hygge

Linda Caplinger, owner of Bee Hygge, holds up her handcrafted quilt design. She said her business got off to a rocky start in February but sales pick up in the colder months.

After launching in February, she struggled to get her self-described cozy lifestyle brand Bee Hygge going because she relied on selling her wares at large craft markets.

“When these were canceled, I just let the air out. I said ‘oh what now?’ “, She said.

Caplinger is part of the Women’s Creative they believe is a vital support system for small business owners like her trying to figure out how to turn their heads during the pandemic.

She said her participation in the campaign is more about helping this women-owned small business network than attracting new customers.

“I was just so worried that people would be sitting at home and shopping – ‘Oh, I can get everything I need on Amazon and it’s free shipping,'” she said.

“I’ve thought about it – it’s not always the easy way, it’s the right way. And the right thing, now and always, is to shop locally. “

The “Keep It Local” campaign highlights many individual manufacturers who do not have the resources to market to consumers beyond their Instagram and Etsy accounts.

This includes the 21-year-old A’iesha Rooks. She started her business, Fifteen Dreams, in May when she was on leave from her bartending job.

Now she sells a mix of antiques, vintage clothing, and candle-filled flat beer cans. Rooks heard about the Keep It Local campaign through Women’s Creative, which helped her get a spot in her first pop-up market last month.

“I have really guilted myself in the past for not being a local buyer because I’m from Granite City, Illinois. So it’s a lot of Walmart, ”she said. “There are no local grocery stores and things like that, so it wasn’t something that was on my mind.”

Rooks said she became a local business owner herself and opened her eyes to how many people in the St. Louis area run small businesses and the importance of keeping them afloat.

She’s still taking on bartending shifts for the time being, but Rooks is starting business school next month in the hope that it will help her pursue fifteen dreams all day.

Follow Corinne on Twitter: @corinnesusan

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