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New Richmond businesses ask for a first shot at area shoppers

New Richmond area businesses want you to give them a try.

The New Richmond Area Chamber of Commerce has launched a new shop local campaign, titled New Richmond First. The effort is aimed at local residents who may do a lot of their shopping in the Twin Cities or other locales.

According to Chamber Executive Director Russ Korpela, the idea for the New Richmond First effort was hatched after a shopping trends survey was completed last year by hundreds of local residents.

One finding of the survey was that a large number of local residents don't keep their dollars local.

In many cases, Korpela said, people didn't shop as often in New Richmond because they weren't aware of all the goods and services the community's businesses offer.

"Many of them were simply not aware that a product or service was available here in New Richmond," he said. "Just about everything you need is right here in New Richmond. We decided we needed to begin an awareness campaign."

Traditional shop-locally campaigns urge shoppers to spend their money with area businesses in an effort to spur on the community's economy.

But that plea doesn't work as well in communities that have an expanding population base, like New Richmond, Korpela said.

"New people don't have that sentimental connection to retailers as people do who have lived here many years," he explained. "So telling them to shop local, because it's the right thing to do, isn't as effective."

Instead, the New Richmond First campaign will attempt to lure in new shoppers to local businesses by increasing the awareness of goods and services offered, by promoting the high quality customer service provided by local retailers, by touting the convenience of shopping here and not spending money on gas to travel elsewhere, and by noting that local businesses compare favorably to distant retailers on price.

"We understand that people aren't going to shop in New Richmond for everything," Korpela said. "We would like them to just check New Richmond first, before they go someplace else. Local businesses would like shoppers to at least give them a try."

To kick-start the new campaign, the Chamber is mailing thousands of postcards to area residents to promote a new Web site,

The site includes information on local businesses, along with specials offered by those participating in the campaign. About 20 area businesses have signed up so far.

"The response from businesses has been pretty positive so far," Korpela said.

The site offers a way to sign up for mobile phone specials from campaign sponsors as well. Shoppers can also sign up to receive a regular e-mail newsletter from the New Richmond First campaign.

The promotional postcards being mailed out include the logos of all of the businesses that are part of the initial shop local effort. Area residents are asked to take the card around to each of the businesses, check out what they have to offer, and then get the card stamped for verification that they visited the sponsor.

"It encourages people to check out some stores that they might not even know exist," Korpela said.

Once a shopper gets at least eight verification stamps, the card can be dropped off at the Chamber office and the person's name will be entered into a drawing for a flat screen television. Local residents can have more than one entry into the drawing if they continue to visit local businesses.

The drawing for the TV will be held during Fun Fest weekend.

Even though the New Richmond First message isn't centered on the idea of keeping your dollars local, Korpela said frequenting the community's retailers has a ripple effect across the economy.

If more money is spent at local stores, there is greater potential for new retailers and service providers to locate here, Korpela explained.

When more businesses come here, Korpela said, there will be fewer reasons for area shoppers to go elsewhere.

"It does help to develop the community," he said. "It encourages entrepreneurs to come into the city to fill in the gaps in what's offered here."