Is R.I. heeding the ‘buy local’ call?

The campaign to get shoppers to “buy local” seems to be gaining traction, but officials have had little luck quantifying its impact. More

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Is R.I. heeding the ‘buy local’ call?

LOCAL FLAVOR: Shopper Charlotte Graham looks over some jewelry at Craftland in Providence last week. Local artisans produce about half the merchandise for sale.
Posted 2/22/10

(Corrected, Feb. 22)

The movement to “buy local” in Rhode Island seems to be gaining traction, despite a bad economic climate, said Deb Dormody, the self-described “boss lady” at Craftland on Westminster Street in Providence’s Downcity Arts District.

“Our sales have grown exponentially each year,” Dormody said, citing in part the effort of Lt. Gov. Elizabeth H. Roberts and other state and city leaders to encourage Rhode Islanders to shop locally.

“People always tell me, when I’m behind the cash register, how much they enjoy shopping here instead of at a big-box store,” Dormody said. “They really like to be able to buy the work of local artists.” With each purchase, she said, a customer receives an “I Buy Art” pin, part of Providence’s “Creative Capital” campaign.

For Roberts, who recently kicked off another month-long tour to promote the Buy Local RI campaign she began in November 2008, such anecdotal evidence of success will have to do for now. Her office has been trying since last March to find a way to quantify the success of the campaign, with little luck.

Matthew Auten, a senior policy analyst working with Roberts, blamed the delay on “a lack of resources.”

An initial survey to track consumer perceptions, conducted in collaboration with students at Johnson & Wales University in order to create a baseline to measure the effectiveness of the Buy Local RI campaign, fell short of achieving the statistical significance desired, Auten said.

“We have limited time and resources,” Auten said. “Our major focus has been to recruit businesses to join the Web site,,” he said. To date, more than 500 businesses have joined.

“We haven’t priced out what it would cost to do a full economic-impact study,” he told Providence Business News.

Roberts is still looking for a sponsoring partner to help prepare additional economic data to quantify the results. In addition to Craftland, she pointed to the success of The Toy Shop, owned by Wayne Kneeland, in Bristol, which has seen its sales climb, as well as the success of Farm Fresh Rhode Island, which promotes the sale of local produce from farmers through seven summer farmers’ markets and one winter farmers’ market.

According to Sheri Griffin, market manager at Farm Fresh Rhode Island, more than 1,000 consumers come every Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., to shop at the winter farmers’ market located at the Hope Artiste Village at 1005 Main St. in Pawtucket, buying local produce worth an estimated $40,000 in revenue each week.

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