As the first step in an effort to quantify the effectiveness of the Buy Local RI campaign, Lt. Gov. Elizabeth H. Roberts and her staff are meeting with representatives of Johnson & Wales University in Providence to see if a consumer and marketing survey can be done of local shopping trends.
Roberts and her staff were scheduled to meet this week with representatives of the Small Business Development Center and the College of Business, both at Johnson & Wales, to “develop a way to really monitor the success of the program and see how much of a shift there’s been in local business,” she said during a recent interview at her Statehouse office.
Meanwhile, at least one local merchant reported a small increase in business in February, and he attributes it to the Buy Local RI effort. Wayne Kneeland, owner of the The Toy Shop on Hope Street in Bristol, said his “numbers are up slightly” for last month, compared to the same month a year ago. Kneeland noted that business usually is slow in February but maintained that he has seen more customers than usual from outside of the Bristol area, particularly on weekends. “I couldn’t give you an exact number [for the increase], but it’s enough to notice there has been a change,” he said. Kneeland, whose store sells specialty toys such as educational games for children, has been in business 14 years.
Roberts conducted a walking tour of the downtown Bristol shopping area, meeting Kneeland and other members of the Bristol Downtown Merchants Association, on Feb. 12 to promote buying local. It is part of a statewide effort that has seen the lieutenant governor visit shopping districts in 11 communities, generally stopping at eight to 10 businesses on each visit. Among the stops to date have been the downtown Providence, Wickford section of North Kingstown, South Kingstown’s Wakefield neighborhood, Westerly and Narragansett.
Regarding the survey, Roberts said, the idea is to see whether Johnson & Wales professors and students would take on the marketing poll as a school project, at no charge. Matt Auten, senior policy analyst for Roberts, estimated that 500 to 1,000 consumers would be contacted statewide and the results should be known in several months.