Retailers & Community: A Hand in Hand Partnership

By Vincent Stipo

What is a community? Is a community defined by the physical limitations of space, engagement in organizations, or a feeling of being encompassed in something larger than ourselves? Is it the families that live in a neighborhood, children playing together in parks, school systems, hospitals and public services? Is our community a gathering place, a social network, or is it a little bit of everything we touch in our day-to-day lives?

In our increasingly online culture, we now have the benefit and opportunity to belong to communities that are global as well as local. The new face of community in the digital culture allows us to access people around the globe and around the corner 24 hours a day, broadcasting intimate details of our daily lives and breaking news at the click of a button.

In our communities, we convene to celebrate and commemorate the moments of intense joy and sorrow in our personal lives, collective achievement, such as the Olympics, and collective grief, like the devastation of global tragedy. In these moments, we seek connection to our local and global networks in the places that feel like home away from home: the restaurants, shops, bars, and stores that open their doors and their hearts to the communities they reside alongside one another.

With the rising popularity of initiatives like Shop Local and Small Business Saturday, customers are looking to their neighborhood retailers to support stores that form their local communities. The 2016 shopper is increasingly thoughtful about consumption, looking for stores and companies that mirror their values. Community businesses are adopting a Triple Bottom Line of social and environmental awareness joined with profitability as core tenets, laying the foundation for a flourishing social and business network to grow. Farm-to-table restaurants, sustainable home goods stores, organic juice shops, DIY artisan craft and educational stores, vintage boutiques, locally roasted coffee shops create a network of jobs and products sustaining and boosting the local economy and creating space for connection and interaction between storeowners, employees, shoppers, diners, and neighbors themselves.  These customers and retailers also have the opportunity to buy and sell online, on community driven marketplaces like Etsy and locally grown Community Shared Agriculture services delivering locally farmed goods directly to consumers expanding their reach to broader audiences outside of direct geographic locations. Local boutiques also give neighborhoods their distinct identity and differentiate the community from others around it. Looking beyond profitability, these expansive businesses see the value of social and environmental wealth as equally important branches to be tended to with care.

The ebb and flow of a vibrant community transitions from day to night, providing meeting places, culture and dining for the daytime employee as well as the after-hours resident.  Beyond strategic city planning of a well-functioning and inviting neighborhood, a great community consists of businesses and residents dedicated to creating a welcoming environment for new growth and development, seeking to thrive rather than stagnate.  It’s simple additions like window boxes and trees, cafes with outdoor seating and community gardens that can adjust the aesthetic quality of a street or neighborhood.  Then there’s the shops, restaurants, and neighbors that take it a step farther, branching out to foster the community by hosting special events, neighborhood block parties, and summer festivals welcoming all to participate.

At MSC Retail, we’re proud to represent and work with retailers that share a passion for community through social and environmental awareness, locally sourced goods, sustainability, and going above and working alongside their neighbors and fellow business owners in experiences of collective celebrations and gatherings.  This Sunday, August 28th, we’re excited to be participating for the third year in The Philly 10k Post-Race Festival, a race through Philadelphia neighborhoods that culminates in a festival of Philly-based food and beverage retailers celebrating the success of the race with the 5,500 runners and spectators. Some of our amazing clients are coming with us to greet festival guests with free samples and giveaways of their well-crafted and well-loved products.  These retailers are dedicated not only to growing the success of their businesses and their neighborhoods, but to creating meaningful shared experiences for the members of our communities locally and globally.  That’s a community we’re proud to be involved in its continued growth.