Gordon Geiger, whose family business Geiger’s started in 1932, knows firsthand how the game has changed for local shops and boutiques. It wasn’t too long ago that stores relied on foot traffic. Now, it’s all about e-commerce. “Retail has changed so quickly,” says the owner of the clothing store with locations in Chagrin Falls, Lakewood and downtown Cleveland. “How people consume and purchase things now is different. Let's face it, Amazon has changed the game for everybody.” To combat this phenomenon, Geiger created Cleveland Shops, an organization designed to better connect consumers to local, independent brick-and-mortar shops. Kicking off Oct. 21, Cleveland Shops’ first initiative is a gift certificate sale featuring discounts at more than 40 different retailers such as Lion and Blue, Rozi’s Winehouse and Blush Boutique. Already, more than 2,000 shoppers have signed up to get early access to these discounts at participating stores. By Thanksgiving, just in time for the holiday season, the organization will also be selling gift cards, which can be redeemed at all of the 40 participating shops. But Geiger says the group’s plans don’t end here. The shop owner filled us in on how the group came to be and how shoppers can think local this holiday season.
What is the mission of Cleveland Shops, and how did it start?
The message we're trying to send and what we're trying to do is remind people continually of the importance of shopping local. What started off as a cup of coffee and a conversation led into a nice group of interested people that I didn't necessarily know such as Dan Unger from Mar-Lou Shoes or Chad Schreibman from Alson Jewelers. All of a sudden, we started to brainstorm and say, “How can we do this? What is a good model and who [else] do we invite to be part of this?”
Why do you think now is such an important time for local shops to work together?
If we all work together, we can really amplify and magnify the messages. I can see this 40-member group doubling in the next two to three months. All of us have been adapting to whatever this new reality is that we're in. Just managing day to day with the pandemic, it can be difficult for some people to look at the future, three months down the road and so on. In a perfect world, someday, a couple hundred retailers and independent brick-and-mortar [shops] can keep sending the message that must be sent all the time.
How can consumers be encouraged to shop local?
You know how you Google something like “hardware store near me” and it’ll tell you where there’s a Lowe's or a Home Depot? If you just add a couple of more words at the end, “independent brick-and-mortar hardware store near me,” you could pull up Lakewood Hardware or the Samsel Supply Store, which is down in The Flats. So instead of the first look being “Where can I get it, and how can I get it delivered to me?” [the search] needs to be, “What are my options that are here in town that are independent?” because they need to be supported.
More info: clevelandshops.org