Economic Development, Retail, and Small Business & Startups

Get Caught Blue-Handed Day impacts local businesses

The ‘Buy Nearby’ campaign supports Michigan’s $93.7B retail industry.

October 9, 2015
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The Buy Nearby Guy helped local retailers draw attention to their businesses on Get Caught Blue Handed Day. Courtesy Michigan Retailers Association

Getting caught red-handed usually isn’t a whole lot of fun. Getting caught blue-handed — now that’s a different story.

As part of the Michigan Retailers Association’s year-round Buy Nearby campaign, Oct. 3 became the third annual Get Caught Blue Handed Day. The idea of the day-long celebration was to have stores all over the state offer special promotions as a kind of thank-you to loyal customers, explained Tom Scott, senior vice president of communications and marketing for the Michigan Retailers Association.

“The (Buy Nearby) campaign is designed to get all Michiganders excited about the great shopping we have in the state and to increase their awareness of the importance to our local communities and the state’s economy of shopping nearby where they live, work, vacation or visit,” he said.

“As for Get Caught Blue-Handed Day, we know more retailers participated this year, but we don’t have specific data yet. We know that retailers used more than 15,000 Get Caught Blue-Handed merchandise tags and Thanks for Buying Nearby cards that Michigan Retailers Association made available at no cost. It was the first year we made the tags and cards available to retailers.”

Get Caught Blue-Handed is celebrated every year the first Saturday of October. The MRA encouraged shoppers to go shopping that day with friends and family and enjoy “getting caught” supporting their communities and Michigan businesses. Shoppers also used the hashtag #ibuynearby to post social media to show their support and be automatically entered to win in drawings for gift cards.

“More retailers and shoppers are aware of the campaign. Our Buy Nearby Guy mascot has traveled thousands more miles to make appearances in more communities to help spread the word and remind Michiganders to buy nearby,” Scott said.

“We want our residents to realize that where they spend their dollars matters a great deal to our local communities, and keeping their shopping dollars in the state benefits everyone. We want them to think before they sit down at the computer to routinely buy something from an out-of-state online retailer who hasn’t invested in Michigan, doesn’t provide any jobs in Michigan, doesn’t pay any taxes in Michigan and doesn’t support any local projects the way Michigan businesses do.”

As to how many people attended/participated in the event, Scott said it’s impossible to know, given that Get Caught Blue-Handed Day is a localized event that’s spread all over the state. It’s also impossible to know precisely how much money was spent at local businesses during the event, since no one has an accurate way of tracking those numbers, he said.

Nonetheless, the event did have an impact, he assured, particularly in West Michigan.

“We had great interest and participation from retailers in Rockford, Kalamazoo, Plainwell and other West Michigan communities, but it’s difficult to say how any one region fared. Again, this is very much a local celebration,” he said.

“We are currently surveying several thousand retailers to help us gauge how foot traffic and sales were last Saturday, but we won’t have those results for another week or so.”

Shopping local has a huge impact on Michigan’s economy, which is why the Buy Nearby campaign is so important, Scott said. The Buy Nearby campaign is sponsored this year by DTE Energy, with supporting sponsorship from Pure Michigan/Michigan Economic Development Corp., Discover, AT&T, Michigan State Housing Development Authority and Retailers Insurance Co., Scott said. Individuals have contributed more than $1,000 to the campaign this year.

“Economic research done by Anderson Economic Group in East Lansing found that if everyone practiced Buy Nearby by buying from stores and websites in Michigan, it would create an additional $9 billion in economic activity throughout our state in 2015 and create nearly 75,000 new jobs — not just in retail but throughout the economy because dollars spent in Michigan stay in the state and re-circulate,” he said.

“Even if shoppers switched only one of every five ‘remote’ purchases to Michigan businesses, it would still create $1.8 billion in new activity and create 15,000 new jobs. On average, half of every dollar spent in a Michigan store stays in the state — even more if the business is locally owned or sells Michigan-made products. Dollars sent out of state to an online retailer with no presence in Michigan are 100 percent gone.”

This was also the first year that the event’s rules have changed, so to speak. On Oct. 1, Michigan’s new Main Street Fairness legislation took effect. The legislation, advocated by Michigan Retailers Association for years, was signed into law by Gov. Snyder Jan. 15.

“It takes a giant step toward leveling the retail playing field for Michigan retailers competing against out-of-state online retailers,” Scott said.

“It does that by redefining ‘physical presence’ so that many out-of-state online retailers, including Amazon, now have a physical presence in Michigan and must collect the state’s 6 percent sales tax on items sold to Michigan residents. That means these out-of-state companies no longer have a built-in 6 percent price advantage over Michigan retailers.”

According to Scott, the Michigan Department of Treasury figures reveal that retail trade accounted for $93.7 billion in economic activity in Michigan in fiscal year 2014, and that isn’t counting food and drug purchases.

“One in four jobs in Michigan depends on the retail industry. On average, 50 cents of every dollar spent in a retail business in Michigan stays in the community and helps grow the Michigan economy,” ” said James P. Hallan, MRA president and CEO.

“Michigan communities benefit from having attractive and exciting businesses that offer shoppers great customer service and often unique products they can’t find anywhere else. Retail purchases made right here in Michigan have a monumental impact on our state and communities.”

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