I attended a workshop,this morning, sponsored by the American Bookseller's Association, telling us about all the exciting things that are happening with the new IndieBound program.
For several years, the ABA sponsored a marketing program for independent booksellers called BookSense. The idea behind BookSense was to harness the collective wisdom of member bookstores in making recommendations to readers and to have a greater influence in the publishing world.
Well, the time had come to spruce up the program and apparently as the Madison Avenue types reviewed what was happening in the marketplace, they discovered that the concept of supporting local businesses and independent retailers was a growing trend and movement. There has been a distinct shift away from and a general disenchantment with the big box and chain retailers.
So the new brand IndieBound was born. Initially this is still primarily focused on bookstores but the aim of the program is to allow other types of independent businesses to become linked-in to the program so the consumer can more easily locate and support his or her local shop or at least buy from an independent retailer.
The exciting part is the materials the ABA is making available. They are easily reproduced - they suggest we practice what we preach - at any local print shop, such as Toucan Graphics to name one. But the best part about these professionally designed marketing pieces is they can be easily modified and used as part of a town wide Buy Local - Support Your Independent Business program and did I mention they are free - at least with a membership to the ABA (and Paragraphs is an ABA member bookstore so we will have access to any and all of the materials).
Wouldn't it be great to see the Indie businesses of SPI come together and cross promote one another as part of a Buy Local campaign. It could also be expanded to include Port Isabel, and the nice part is the advertising and marketing materials are top of the line, with modern graphics, professional artwork and totally customizable and remember they are free to use.
I think this would be a wonderful way to invite tourists into our small businesses and maybe divert some attention away from the T-shirt shops. Buying from Indies is a national movement and I believe it meets the South Padre Island vision, if we can work together to take advantage of our uniqueness.
Of course, the other piece is to encourage independent businesses instead of focusing on bringing chain stores to the Island. Hopefully, as the development in the entertainment district at Amberjack's is brought online, this will be a consideration. I would really hate to see us trying to become another shopping mecca with Saks, Starbuck's, Bubba Gump's Shrimp, and Barnes and Noble, when we can have the same quality but provide a more unique experience by promoting and encouraging our own brand of specialty shops that better represent our own distinct community.
I have said it before, on the forum and on my blog, I believe that the first step in attracting repeat tourists is continuing to develop a community that we find it a joy to live and work in, and then to welcome our tourist friends by treating them as an important part of our local community. The trend for many travelers, is to find places where they feel part of the crowd and where there is a sense of local individuality - as opposed to the mega-resorts where everything is standard fare and it becomes difficult to determine whether one is in Maui or Hilton Head. I only hope we are wise enough to recognize this market instead of seeking those who prefer the "it's Monday this must be Maui" visitor who is seeking the nearest chain retailer for the perfect Coach handbag or Gucci watch.