#Buyfromthebush: Drought-affected retailers get a helping hand from hastag

Hashtag is putting dollars in the bank for country retailers

One tiny little hashtag is having a huge impact on businesses in the region. Since Buy from the Bush was launched in October, it's gained a huge following and put thousands of dollars in the cash registers of the region's drought-affected businesses.

The Buy from the Bush movement has shown the massive impact social media and e-commerce can have on a business's bottom line, a digital marketing specialist says.

Dubbo's Leanne O'Sullivan said she had seen clients' monthly turnovers "treble" in the weeks since the launch of the social media campaign and its hashtag.

The founder of Adventure Digital, which helps businesses with digital marketing, encouraged people to "ride the wave" and offered advice for how stores could make the most of the movement.

Ms O'Sullivan saw Buy from the Bush shortly after it was launched by Warren district woman Grace Brennan on October 16 and said she immediately thought it was something businesses needed to get on board.

"I've got clients myself and I've seen their revenues treble as a result of this [Buy from the Bush], using the appropriate hashtags," she said.

Ms O'Sullivan said it was businesses that understood digital marketing, Instagram strategy and hashtags that had particularly benefited.

She encouraged all businesses to invest in an e-commerce store, calling it a "necessity".

BUILDING BUSINESS: Adventure Digital founder Leanne O'Sullivan has seen clients' monthly turnovers "treble" since the launch of Buy from the Bush.

BUILDING BUSINESS: Adventure Digital founder Leanne O'Sullivan has seen clients' monthly turnovers "treble" since the launch of Buy from the Bush.

"I think in the very fast pace, people make decisions, they get emotionally-attached to the idea of Buy from the Bush," she said.

"So they go there, they see something, they want to just click, click, checkout, and it's really critical for regional businesses that they get set up properly to do that."

Ms O'Sullivan said there were still regional businesses that were not using the Buy from the Bush hashtag on all their posts, missing out on an opportunity.

"They're not quite understanding the connection between the power of that little hashtag and dollars in the bank," she said.

Western NSW Business Chamber regional manager Vicki Seccombe said Buy from the Bush, and the NSW government website Buy Regional, had "provided a phenomenal boost for many of our regional businesses who have been doing it tough".

"Awareness about purchasing regionally has definitely risen since these campaigns commenced, so we are hopeful that it will encourage us all to buy locally from our businesses in the lead up to Christmas and beyond," she said.

"Businesses are critical to our regional towns - they provide goods and services, job opportunities and support our community activities such as sport and local charities."

Bush retailers buoyed as city shoppers 'spend where it counts'

BUILDING BUSINESS: Saddler & Co founders Jemima and Bede Aldridge have seen a "huge spike in interest in our brand and what we do". Photo: BELINDA SOOLE

BUILDING BUSINESS: Saddler & Co founders Jemima and Bede Aldridge have seen a "huge spike in interest in our brand and what we do". Photo: BELINDA SOOLE

New movements appealing to caring consumers are breathing life into drought-hit regional retail sectors in the countdown to Christmas.

Shoppers from capital cities are among those showering stores in Dubbo, Orange and Bathurst with orders, the new interest buoying the owners who pour "heart and soul" into their work.

The spike in trade and interest is flowing from grass roots social media movement Buy from the Bush and NSW government website Buy Regional, retailers report.

The new markets boosting turnover are a cause for hope despite drought continuing for a third consecutive year in some parts of the state.

Dubbo store Saddler & Co has featured on Buy from the Bush, which has 140,000 Facebook followers, and is listed on the Buy Regional web page, which connects Sydney shoppers with regional sellers.

A collection of handcrafted leather goods, the business's co-founder Jemima Aldridge reported seeing a "huge spike in interest in our brand and what we do", thanks to both platforms.

More than 2000 direct visits to Saddler & Co's website have resulted from Buy Regional in the past six weeks, she said.

Buy from the Bush has also stimulated activity.

So there's been huge support... they're thrilled they're discovering regional makers and businesses, because they are quite tired of buying from chain shops.

Saddler & Co founder Jemima Aldridge

"So people are discovering us for the first time, are interested to hear about our process and the fact that we're making it all locally," she said.

"So there's been huge support... they're thrilled they're discovering regional makers and businesses, because they are quite tired of buying from chain shops.

"And I think the Buy from the Bush hashtag and the whole campaign has created this amazing platform for anyone to discover amazing regional businesses, and it's all in one place, so it's very easy."

Mrs Aldridge said Buy from the Bush was even resulting in people travelling west to explore, with visitors dropping into their Sterling Street store.

Family-owned children's business Two Grey Elephants at Orange has had "an amazing response" from Buy from the Bush and Buy Regional.

At least 43 per cent of sales appeared to be coming from campaign exposure on social media and about another 25 per cent directly from the Buy Regional website, co-founder Alison Davis reported.

"For us, like so many other small businesses, it's personal, and we put our heart and soul into everything we create for Two Grey Elephants," she said.

"This is why we are so grateful for this incredible movement, giving so many businesses like ours in drought-affected communities a platform to reach the people who want to show their support and spend where it counts.

BUILDING BUSINESS: Two Grey Elephants founders Mel Watson and Alison Davis are impressed with Buy from the Bush. Photo: SUPPLIED

BUILDING BUSINESS: Two Grey Elephants founders Mel Watson and Alison Davis are impressed with Buy from the Bush. Photo: SUPPLIED

"Believe us, we really do do a happy dance for every sale we get."

Earlier this year the business owners took the hard decision to close their premises and now operate online and at markets only.

"We know first-hand what it's like to face closing down due to the economic impact of drought on regional areas, having closed our own storefront earlier this year," Miss Davis said.

"With a large number of our customers connected to the land, the devastation of drought filtered through the whole community and was really felt by everyone."

We know first-hand what it's like to face closing down due to the economic impact of drought on regional areas, having closed our own storefront earlier this year.

Two Grey Elephants at Orange co-founder Alison Davis

Bathurst's Diversity Fashion, which is listed on Buy Regional, has gained new customers in recent weeks, with orders coming from as far afield as Queensland.

"It's been really good for us to reach further into city areas and also interstate," co-founder Amelia Hines said.

Ms Hines started Diversity Fashion with mother Jean seven years ago.

HELPING HAND: Diversity Fashion founders Amelia Hines and Jean Hines say Buy From the Bush has helped grow their business. Photo: JACINTA CARROLL

HELPING HAND: Diversity Fashion founders Amelia Hines and Jean Hines say Buy From the Bush has helped grow their business. Photo: JACINTA CARROLL

She said the drought had affected people's spending habits.

"Our budgets have been a little bit trickier to meet," she said.

The Diversity Fashion label is designed by the duo and sewers in Bathurst are employed to machine the garments.

More orders has flow-on effects, with Ms Hines saying they could give more work to their sewers as a result.

"Our name is Diversity, so we dress diverse women, but we also have diversity in our product, so the more people who are able to purchase with us, the more diversity we can give in the product," she said.

How buying from the bush has become a phenomenon

  • October 16 - Warren district woman Grace Brennan launches Buy from the Bush on Facebook and Instagram, a showcase of "beautiful boutiques and wares from small bush communities". The first post encourages people to "boost a small business facing drought while ticking off your Christmas list".
  • October 18 - Buy from the Bush attracts its first 1000 followers.
  • October 28 - NSW government website Buy Regional, an online hub showcasing regional shops and sellers to make it easy for shoppers to find the perfect Christmas gift and support regional NSW, goes live. The launch is attended by Deputy Premier John Barilaro, Minister for Small Business Damien Tudehope, celebrity chef Matt Moran and the founders of online communities Buy from the Bush and One Day Closer To Rain.
  • December 1 - Buy from the Bush reaches the milestone of 130,000 followers.
  • December 4 - The Buy Regional web page lists more than 250 regional businesses and more than 286,000 people have visited the web page, the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment reports. Australia Post figures show there has been a 30 per cent increase in parcels sent from regional towns for this time of year off the back of the #BuyRegional and #BuyfromtheBush campaigns.
  • December 8 - Buy from the Bush announces plans for a pop-up market in Martin Place, Sydney on Thursday, featuring 20 bush makers.
  • December 9 - The Buy from the Bush website is launched.

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This story Hashtag is putting dollars in the bank for country retailers first appeared on Cowra Guardian.