DOWNTOWN — Before purchasing a book online or driving to a mall in another city, shoppers might want to consider patronizing businesses in their own neck of the woods.
That’s the message the Bayside District Corp. and City Hall want to send to residents through the new “Buy Local” campaign, hoping to give a shot in the arm to the Santa Monica economy at a time when businesses are experiencing a slump.
The recently-launched campaign will profile 32 businesses over the next eight weeks through segments on CityTV, press releases and advertisements. The marketing initiative also includes a new Web page on Downtownsm.com that will focus on the importance of shopping locally, both in terms of funneling tax money back to City Hall and helping the environment through lowering the carbon footprint.
“This is a challenging time certainly for everybody in Santa Monica and one of the objectives that we hope to accomplish with this program was to remind people that if they spend their money in town, that a significant portion of that money stays in town to help support the community,” said Kathleen Rawson, the executive director of Bayside, a private-public management company in Downtown.
The campaign is actually the second in the city since a similar one launched shortly after the terrorist attacks in 2001. The results of that first campaign were positive in helping to activate a stagnant economy at the time, said Jennifer Taylor, a senior administrative analyst with the Economic Development Division in City Hall.
City and Bayside officials looked to similar campaigns in other communities as models, including in Berkeley and Oakland.
“We feel businesses are really struggling and it’s important to bring as much awareness as possible to help them and encourage people to think locally first,” Taylor said.
Bayside released a list of reasons why shoppers should stay local, pointing out at the top that for every $100 spent on Santa Monica businesses, about $45 stays in the community in the form of sales taxes.
The campaign also stresses the environmental benefits of staying in the community, which can allow shoppers to ditch their cars in favor of their bikes and legs.
Among the Business Improvement Districts that could participate is the Pico Improvement Organization, which represents merchants along Pico Boulevard.
Bob Kronovet, the chairman of the PIO, said that while the board has yet to make a decision on whether to be involved, he was sure that the organization would participate.
Business on the boulevard has remained stable over the past few months, during which time turnover has remained relatively low, Kronovet said.
“This is a chance for all of the BIDS to work together and promote businesses to folks coming into Santa Monica,” he said.
Jeremy Berman, the co-owner of Vanilla Bake Shop on Wilshire Boulevard, said that the campaign could lead to a trickle down effect in which shoppers in Santa Monica will hit the stores before catching a meal and then maybe a movie.
“Everyone benefits by everyone coming out locally,” he said.
The bakery, which opened in 2007, has seen an increase in business over the past year, but not by as much it should be experiencing, Berman said.
“We are affected by it but not as dramatic as everyone else,” he said of the sluggish economy. “We should’ve been growing stronger than we have.”
Business has also been stable at Border Grill, a Mexican restaurant on Fourth Street.
“I think everyone was quite surprised at the end of last year with the sharp downturn and we were cautious budgeting,” said Doug Rausenberger, the general manager. “While it’s not where I would like it to be … we are doing OK relative to the general business levels of other restaurants that I’ve heard.”
The restaurant has also instituted a “Locals Club” which offers discounts to patrons from the area.
“I love the idea of really just reminding people to think locally first,” he said. “We’re all neighbors and business partners and I think supporting each other is a really great idea.”