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Campaign aims to show love to local businesses during pandemic

Image courtesy of the Love Kingston campaign.

Without doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected every person in our community, leaving many with feelings of uncertainty. But as we look to adapt to whatever the new normal is, one thing is very clear: the local economy will depend on all of us as a community to come together and show we ‘Love Kingston.’

This is the very sentiment behind a new campaign: Love Kingston. Aimed at reminding the community of the importance of buying locally, the campaign will highlight both the incredible cross section of local businesses throughout Kingston, and how those businesses are working to overcome the obstacles the current pandemic has put in their path.

Love Kingston is a collaborative effort by the Downtown Kingston! BIA, the Kingston Economic Development Corporation, Tourism Kingston, the Greater Kingston Chamber of Commerce, and the City of Kingston. The campaign has brought together local creative minds, such as Jon Allison of Backcountry Branding, the video work of Make Hay Media, the digital prowess of Dave Rossborough of Lightbody Marketing, and the strategic leadership of Kathleen Vollebregt of Avenue Strategy. Together, these organizations developed a cohesive campaign to support Kingston’s local businesses through this difficult time.

Image of Melissa Eapen of Wonderland Escape Rooms and Board Game Cafe courtesy of the Love Kingston campaign.

“We’ve been meeting daily as a business community,” Kingston Economic Development Corporation CEO Donna Gillespie said of the virtual meetings taking place between all of those who collaborated on the campaign. “We knew we had to look at a shop local campaign concept, so I reached out to Kathleen to come back with some ideas on a proposal, and from proposal to today, it’s been two and a half weeks. It is incredible the Kingston talent we have that we can pull this together so well and so quickly.”

In her briefing to Kingston City Council, Gillespie outlined that 43 per cent of the local workforce (36,900 workers) is at medium or high risk of employment loss, cash-flow impact, revenue reduction and closure. She also noted that Kingston was ranked in the top five cities whose economy is expected to be hit hardest by the closures by the Conference Board of Canada. In other words, the strain on the local economy is real, and, in order to ensure that the businesses we all know and love will remain here long-term, those businesses need the support of the community like never before.

And, while the campaign is honest and includes videos with local business owners discussing their struggles through this unprecedented time, it is rooted in the very sentiment its name conveys: Love Kingston.

“It’s a double entendre. Not only does it stress the importance of showing love for our city and the business that make it what it is, it also acts as a sort of sign off, like ending a letter with ‘Love, Kingston,’” Vollebregt expressed. “This allows the campaign to work both ways, showing love to Kingston, and love from Kingston.”

Residents can expect to see lots of the ‘Love Kingston’ branded content rolled out on social media and through advertising in the coming weeks and months, including profiles of local business throughout Kingston. It was important for Love Kingston to include businesses from all over the city, including rural businesses, and the campaign, Gillespie explained, has been funded by the coming together of pooled resources from all contributors, all of whom had advertising commitments already in place and transitioned those pre-purchased commitments into a strong, united ‘buy local’ campaign.

“It is really about how we have an immediate need right now. Businesses are devastated,” Vollebregt said candidly. “I sit on the Downtown Kingston! BIA board and recently attended a meeting… just listening to one business after another detail what they’re going through, it was just devastating. I’ve always been a big local supporter, but after hearing all of that, it was so obvious we have to step it up.”

One main component of the campaign was to create a website that acts as a local business directory. Local businesses can put themselves on the registry easily, and share details of what they offer, how their business has changed, and how residents can connect with them for their goods and/or services. And while there are many similar community initiatives, such as Kingston Delivers and the Memorial Centre Farmers’ Market Online Store, which have been developed due to the pandemic, Gillespie said the intention behind the Love Kingston business directory was to offer both businesses and consumers direction and a single place to connect.

“The Love Kingston campaign is about keeping local dollars in the community,” Gillespie said. “There are many great sites, Facebook pages and individual posts collectively spreading the message to support Kingston businesses, for which we are grateful. It’s heartening to see all the love for Kingston at a time our local businesses need our help the most.”

Gillespie also pointed to the Economic Development’s Digital Main Street campaign, which received funding last fall and has been extended through 2020. This campaign offers services to local businesses looking to enhance their digital presence, and any businesses looking to do so can find out more here.

“Now more than ever, we need to rally the community to support local and show their love for Kingston,” Vollebregt said.

Image of Monica Brown of The Rocking Horse toy store courtesy of the Love Kingston campaign.

Gillespie echoed Vollebregt’s message.

“As consumers, we need to think about where we’re spending our dollars. I know that’s a hard message, too, because there are a lot of people who have less disposable income right now, and that is something that is so sad for our community,” she expressed. “But if you are purchasing something, really consciously think about how you can buy it from a business in Kingston, whether it’s a small independent or it’s a store that employs Kingstonians.”

Love Kingston acts as a reminder that business owners and their employees are our friends and neighbours, and an integral part of what makes Kingston the city we all love and share together, Gillespie explained.

“We need to keep the money in the community. These businesses are the ones supporting our little league teams. They’re the ones that are supporting our charities, donating to silent auctions,” she said. “Whether they’re business owners or they’re employees, these are the people of this community, and they need our support.”

To access the business directory to find local businesses to support, or to find out more about the campaign, go to www.lovekingston.ca.

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