Talk about impressive community engagement! Just two weeks after launch, the Warwick, RI Police Department’s SquadLocker awareness store brought in more than 30 orders! And the excitement continues.
What’s their secret? No secret, but a darn good story – one that offers some valuable lessons for your store:
- Think outside your school or team to build community
- Common causes bring people together
- Social media is “huge”
As store manager, you want your supporters to shop often. One way to increase engagement is to make your store itself more engaging, with a great assortment of hip spirit wear as well as necessities such as school dress uniforms and sports team gear. More inventory means more reasons to shop and buy.
But community outreach can build store engagement as well. You can go beyond those your school or league or team or company serves directly to connect with the community as a whole. Outreach is particularly important for the Warwick PD, because they directly serve the public as well as their own internal personnel.
The department sponsors community activities such as “Coffee with a Cop” and “Read with a Cop” story hours at Barnes & Noble. With the quarantine, community engagement has gone virtual. Story time still happens, every night, but it’s online. Cops, guest readers, even celebrities take turns reading.
But the WPD wanted to do more.
The department created an embroidered patch promoting Autism Awareness to wear on their uniforms during the month of April. The idea took off, and they added Law Enforcement Memorial for May, Breast Cancer Awareness for October and Support Our Troops for November.
Sgt. Matt Higgins and his Captain, Michael Lima, conferred about the designs, then the company that makes the patches finalized the artwork. A press release announced release of each new patch. Once word got out, requests started pouring in from the public. But people wanted more than patches, they wanted tees and sweatshirts with the same designs.
A Store Is Born
SquadLocker account executive George Sutherland knew exactly what to do: a WPD online awareness store!
The department already had a SquadLocker store strictly for in-house personnel, and that was going great. But, George pointed out, adding an awareness store accessible to the public would engage the entire community. Anyone, anywhere, could easily order the decorated apparel they wanted.
Our SquadLocker design team is always happy to create new logos for customers at no charge, but that’s not always necessary. In this case, we were able to duplicate the WPD’s existing artwork without having to make any changes.
“Social Media Is Huge!”
So says Sgt. Higgins, and he should know. “I had never made a social media post,” he laughs. Now, as supervisor in the Community Services Division, he is the “social media person” for the department. In fact, social media is a key communications tool for the WPD. They use it to post personal stories about the officers, talk about department activities, and pass along community news.
And now to promote their awareness store, though Sgt. Higgins plans to expand store promotion in the future. But that’s not all.
Social media offers other ways to increase engagement. One of the best? Ask for input. And that’s exactly what the WPD is doing for their awareness store. What do their fans and followers want to see in the way of additional apparel to be decorated with patches? Which causes should the PD include in their store?
The strongest connections come from working together. When you invite supporters to help shape your store as well as shop, you reinforce their sense of connectedness.
Raising More than Awareness
Thanks to SquadLocker’s fundraising feature, the WPD awareness store can do more than sell decorated apparel to help spread the word about specific issues. It can raise money to support important causes.
Sgt. Higgins says they hope to add 4 or 5 new patches next year along with adding more apparel, based on store experience and feedback. Meanwhile, he says, “We are thankful for having such good support and such good participation. We are always proud that our department is so well-respected by the community.”
Here at SquadLocker, we’re pretty proud, too. “SquadLocker is a nationwide company,” says George Sutherland, “but Warwick is our hometown PD so it is really awesome that we get to work together.”
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