The New South Wales government yesterday urged metropolitan Christmas shoppers to buy from drought-affected regional producers and retailers, launching an online Buy Regional hub to boot.
Although it was launched just yesterday, the online platform is already gaining traction thanks to the success of week-old hashtags #BuyFromTheBush and #OneDayCloserToRain, and the ambassadorship of celebrity chef Matt Moran.
The Buy Regional hub allows customers to purchase directly from regional shops, which register for free, and is a joint effort between Minister for Regional New South Wales John Barilaro and NSW Minister for Small Business Damien Tudehope.
In a statement released at the launch, Barilaro said the initiative is a practical solution for people who “want to do something to help, but they’re not sure how”.
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Tudehope also said Buy Regional addresses current pain points for business owners.
These being that “there are fewer walk-in customers, that margins are tighter and that owners are under enormous pressure,” he said.
Grace Brennan, founder of the #BuyFromTheBush hashtag, said in a statement yesterday the associated account tipped over 50,000 followers in its first nine days and “is growing by the minute”.
Pecan farmer and author Annabelle Hickson tells SmartCompany her community in Tenterfield has seen this digital campaign convert to physical sales, citing an unprecedented spike in online orders.
“Yesterday, I ran into my friend who has an online business at the post office and she was there with a car-load — an entire boot-load — of packages, because she’d been featured on the #BuyFromTheBush hashtag,” Hickson says.
“She’s never made so many sales.”
Hickson attributes the ongoing success in large part to the relative accessibility of joining the hashtag campaign, as well as ease of use.
“Even some of my most computer-illiterate friends, they’ve been able to very easily put the hashtag on,” she said, quoting the success of a business run by a woman in her 60s who’s “not very good at anything like that”.
“There’s almost zero [barriers to] entry — you just have to be on Instagram or Facebook.”
Hickson says this is a huge contrast to the usual “helping the drought” solutions, which amounts to what she describes as “a free barbecue that’s put on and that’s meant to help the farmers”.
With #BuyFromTheBush, “there’s no middle man, and it gives city people a direct way to help an actual person living in the bush with a business,” she says.
Having seen an increase in sales of her own book since the hashtag’s launch, Hickson says this is indicative of Australians’ existing desire to help drought-affected communities.
“People could buy my book cheaper through Book Depository, but they’re choosing to come and buy it through me,” she says.
“So I’m assuming that’s because they want the money to actually go to someone living in the bush.”
In a statement, Matt Moran, also the ambassador for the #Thankful4Farmers hashtag, urged consumers to consider buying groceries direct from farmers during this time.
“As a fourth-generation farmer, I know firsthand the blood, sweat and tears that goes into producing our food during times of drought.
“Every product purchased will show our farming and rural communities how much they are valued,” Moran said.