By Emily Gowdey-Backus
Hashtag Worcester? A group of local merchants have launched #shopwoo to promote local, independent shops and businesses.
Now used across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, #shopwoo was conceived by Crompton Collective owner Amy Lynn Chase as a discovery tool in the months before the 2013 holiday season. In partnership with WOO Card and Worcester Local First (WLF) members, Chase sent out a press release encouraging consumers to shop local during the holiday season and post photographs of purchases to social media using #shopwoo.
After the chaos of the holiday season died down, Chase noticed shoppers and businesses were still using #shopwoo. Nine months later, #shopwoo has developed into the hashtag to use when shopping in Worcester. “It’s a great way to discover new shops and cool products in the city year round,” Chase said.
Miriam Hyder, daughter of Ed Hyder’s Mediterranean Marketplace founder, began using #shopwoo during the holiday season when it was introduced through the WLF private Facebook page. In addition to social media, this staple in Worcester’s culinary community executes a vast marketing plan, including TV commercials, radio advertisements and guest appearances on Jordan Levy’s WTAG program.
However, Hyder has found #shopwoo to be an “organic way of marketing,” a fresh revival for WLF. She has referred customers to WLF shops and has had new customers come into the market on the recommendation of other WLF shop owners.
“I think there is a lot of support amongst [local, independent businesses] and our customers,” Hyder said. “We would refer someone to WLF before a chain.”
Virginia Orlando and Candace Atchue, co-owners of Seed to Stem, are well versed in the struggles of entrepreneurship. “Owning a small business today can be hard. You’re always competing with big box everything,” Orlando said. Specializing in terrariums, fresh flowers and antiques with a southwestern vibe, Seed to Stem began as a booth at stART on the Street and opened the Shrewsbury Street store in 2012.
With the help of #shopwoo, tourists from Delaware to Australia have added Seed to Stem to their vacation itineraries.
Canal District Farmers Market has also found a place on the Worcester retail map thanks to #shopwoo. “Because we are a young market and volunteer run, it’s important for us to seek out the best ways to market while keeping costs low,” said Market Coordinator Katelin Kilgallon.
Although a recent state grant has bolstered the market’s online advertising budget, Kilgallon said the word of mouth nature of #shopwoo is still the most effective form of marketing for her business.
“There is a huge movement right now to shop local and eat local; people are reaching out for it,” Kilgallon said. The widespread popularity of #shopwoo proves area consumers are clamoring for more independent businesses to set up shop in Worcester.
“The city is filled with creative and talented people, and now, we have the customers to support them,” Chase said.