Indie bookstores have joined with a growing number of retailers, local independent business alliances, and community organizations to create Independents Week (July 1 - 7) celebrations, aimed at getting the word out about their unique contributions to the local economy.
"We have great participation from IBAs this year, and we also have a healthy number of Main Street, Downtown, and other groups joining in as well," said Jennifer Rockne, executive director of American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA), the sponsor of the event. "Many mayors around the country are proclaiming Independents Week publicly and getting involved directly with events. Several groups are marching in Fourth of July parades and distributing leaflets to the masses on why supporting local independents matters. Others are hosting community picnics, film screenings, essay contests, and conducting scavenger hunts with drawings for prizes from local independent businesses."
AMIBA provides information and promotional materials for Independents Week free of charge at amiba.net.
Since the first Independents Week celebration in 2002, when some 20 independent businesses in Tampa, Florida, led by Inkwood Books, joined together for a weeklong sales event to promote and celebrate independent businesses, the movement has grown significantly. "Over the years, the level of sophistication of community celebrations has increased," said Rockne. "So many more in recent years have moved beyond the commercial-based activities to creating community events and tapping into community sentiment and emotion to connect people with their local independent businesses and the people who own them or are employed by them."
Tom Lowenburg of Octavia Books in New Orleans said Independents Week is "an opportunity for any independent business to define what they do for the community." This year, Octavia Books is partnering with independent business alliance StayLocal.org, a neighboring bakery, and other businesses to mark the week. On July 1, as the week's lead event, the groups will screen Independent America: Rising From the Ruins, a documentary "about New Orleans and the role independent businesses, including bookstores, have played in rebuilding the city," said Lowenburg. "It really highlights how vital such businesses are to our community. In the face of a disaster, it shows how the whole community came together."
More businesses are expected to join in the weeklong event to publicize the importance of local first, said Lowenburg, who emphasized that it's "about more than just offering discounts. It's really about how independent businesses offer so much more for the community."
In Frisco, Colorado, The Next Page Bookstore is joining with close to 100 fellow members of the Summit Independent Business Alliance (SIBA) for a countywide celebration of Independents Week. The Next Page will offer story times, a children's author event, and coupons, said co-owner Amy Yundt. "Nearly all of [SIBA] membership takes part and pitches in with creating floats [for the community's Fourth of July parade] and posters." Yundt, a SIBA board member, said that since the association formed a year ago, it has significantly helped raise awareness about the importance of supporting local businesses.
Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh, North Carolina, will be holding its annual Fourth of July sale as part of a larger community Independents Week. "We always have good results," said Quail Ridge owner Nancy Olson. "We're putting ads in everywhere." Quail Ridge offers 25 percent off to those who are members of its Readers Club and 20 percent off to everyone else. Readers Club members are invited to bring out-of-town guests to receive the same discount.
The bookstore's IBA, Shop Local Raleigh, is heavily promoting Independents Week through its members on e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter. They're also inviting all members to hold promotions and to participate in a press conference with Mayor Charles Meeker on July 2 to announce National Independents Week. The mayor, along with officials from Shop Local Raleigh, will be available to field questions from the media regarding the role of independent businesses in the community.
Talking Leaves Bookstore in Buffalo, New York, recently participated in a citywide, 200-participant-strong shop local campaign, and the store also plans to hold an Independents Week event. "We're calling it Celebrate Independent Choices," said Talking Leaves' Lucy Kogler. The store is offering a discount on staff picks list, along with the Indie Next List.
"We really want to focus on choices. What makes us different is that the people who work here all have different ways of looking at the world, and our staff picks reflect that and is what we pride ourselves on," said Kogler.
IndieBound Outreach Liaison Paige Poe, who along with ABA Chief Marketing Officer Meg Smith, moderated the panel "Independents Week: Creating a Community-Wide Local First Celebration at Any Time of the Year" at BEA, said, "The best thing you can do for a week-long celebration is create a list of events that get customers into your town's independent businesses." Among her recommendations for booksellers are providing free events co-hosted by more than one business and focusing on local offerings, like local food, music, and art. "Kids' events are always a hit, but all the events should be about having fun!" Poe said. "If your Independents Week celebration is fun, more people shopping locally will be the lasting effect."
To help booksellers interested in creating their own Independents Week promotion materials, IndieBound staff has designed a poster for a hypothetical Indieville Independents Week celebration, with a week full of events, and another using the "Here's What You Just Did" talking points on healthy local economies to highlight some of Indieville's local businesses. Stores are encouraged to use the posters as templates and to e-mail Poe for help with customization.
IndieBound's list of PR shortcuts to get Independents Week off the ground includes: