Online shopping giants like Amazon are becoming increasingly popular, and this is taking its toll on small, independent businesses. Three years ago, The Guardian reported on the decline of consumer spending in local stores, and with European corporations jumping on the Black Friday bandwagon and offering multiple sales throughout the year, it’s growing ever tougher for independent retail shops to compete.
Founded two years ago by Haidhausen store owners Sabine Doppler and Sandra Ohler, Buy Local Haidhausen promotes face-to-face shopping. The benefits are huge. Personal customer service, promoting local businesses and the local economy, sustaining local jobs – the whole community benefits from independent stores.
I’ve spent a lot of time in Haidhausen recently, and it’s a joy to wander around. Buy Local Haidhausen aims to keep it this way, and I spoke to Sabine Doppler (owner of Doppler in Haidhausen) about the initiative and the need to support local businesses in Munich.
Sabine, tell me more about Buy Local Haidhausen: what made you decide to start the project?
Sandra Ohler from the vintage store Blaugold and I set up Buy Local Haidhausen two years ago. Our stores are next to each other on Sedanstraße – which is great, as we can discuss the project easily with one another. We’d come up with the idea some time ago, and we simply wanted to establish a local collective to improve the feeling of community in the area.
We wanted to distance ourselves from dull marketing/advertising ideas – we didn’t want a simple booklet that listed the businesses in the area, nor did we want someone in a costume distributing balloons to promote local businesses. Sandra is a trained (and fantastic) graphic designer, and I used to work in visual merchandising and marketing, and know the trade and how the city centre works well.
And so the basic idea was not only to show how interesting the area is to locals, but to also question the city centre’s development. All small stores there have disappeared because rent is too high, the city lacks charm, staff are often demotivated and you stumble from one H&M into the next. A district like Haidhausen is – in comparison – a real gem.
How did people react to the initiative in the beginning?
Initially, Sandra and I thought we’d get around twenty stores involved. Right now, we have forty, and there’s such a great mix. We didn’t want the project to be expensive for the businesses, and calculated everything so that there were minimal expenses. The first map we created was a big adventure for us, and it was very well received. The second map was much easier to create, and was even more popular. We’ve also held a few guerilla events, such as a Bottle Party at Bordeaux Platz, “Advent Heroes” on the four days of Advent, an autumn party with Marlenes Vintage Caravan Bar at Weißenburger Platz, papering the window displays and an advert shown in the Rio Filmpalast cinema.
This year we’re working on a new map, a website and jute bags. We print the jute bags ourselves in a silk screening workshop – we also printed our Buy Local Haidhausen tea towels there too.
You mentioned the papering of the window displays in some Haidhausen stores – the poster read “You’ll only realise that online shopping’s not all that cool when the last store disappears from your streets”. The project received a lot of press – how did customers react?
It was a great success, but it took some doing. We postponed it twice, as so many businesses were against the idea. Sandra and I decided, pretty haphazardly, to just go ahead and do it. We sent a short note to the Buy Local Haidhausen stores to let them know how to cover up their window displays and what the poster should read (the speech bubble). From the forty stores, only fifteen participated and we thought it was a bit of a damp squib. But far from it – everyone loved it, both the media and our customers.
How can people support Buy Local Haidhausen?
Pretty easily – simply by being conscious of what’s going on in your area and supporting everything it has to offer. Not just buying everything on Amazon etc. What will it lead to? A functional district is neighbourly and full of life – if stores and cafes/restaurants disappear, the neighbourhood goes downhill. Buy Local Haidhausen is an initiative that’s applicable the world over, you just have to support local shops and businesses. Strolling through an established, beloved, fully-functioning neighbourhood is almost a cultural heritage that should be protected!