|As economic development professionals, we promote the value of shopping local and supporting local, however, we contradict this way of thinking by purchasing bulk, imported orders of traditional promotional items such as coffee mugs, pens and notebooks. This way of purchasing promotional items was easy, cost-effective and a low-risk way to market our community, the Town of Whitby. However, we realized there was little to no economic value to the community we are trying to support. So we stopped, and there was a shift in thinking; instead of promoting our community to the businesses, we started promoting our businesses to the community.
To do so, we stopped purchasing traditional promotional items and instead started purchasing small gift cards to unique, local and independently owned businesses in the Town of Whitby. On a smaller scale, we purchased $25 gift cards from our four local craft breweries. These gift cards were given out at the local Chamber of Commerce Golf Tournament. On a slightly larger scale, we purchased $50 gift cards to local restaurants. These gift cards were given out at the Mayor’s Golf Tournament and other community events. We initially began this process during the pandemic, so it was a natural fit to support restaurants and breweries/tourism attractions, as they were greatly impacted by public health measures.
This shift of thinking had very positive results. From the point of view of local businesses, they greatly appreciated the bulk gift card purchases, especially during the economic challenges of the pandemic and resulting public health measures. From the perspective of community members, the feedback was incredibly positive; people prefer a gift card to a local business as opposed to a Whitby-branded coffee mug. From the perspective of our economic development team, we were able to have better conversations with the community about what we do, and how we can support them.
The shift towards locally sourced promotional items also had a very positive influence on the rest of the municipality as well as the local Chamber of Commerce and Business Improvement Area. We were able to lead by example in our efforts to promote and support local businesses.
The Economic Developers Council of Ontario recognized the value of this approach to promotional items, and we were selected to present this community best practice at the 2022 EDCO Conference. The feedback from the economic development professionals in attendance was incredibly positive. Many attendees had thought about this in the past and appreciated the roadmap or steps laid out by the Town of Whitby Economic Development team.
This initiative offers a perfect example of how we can shift our way of thinking and begin sourcing our promotional items locally to help better support the communities we serve in a sustainable manner.
*COVER PHOTO:Fairway Friday Chamber of Commerce Christmas in June gift card slection tree.