The program is a collaboration of the Palo Alto Weekly, Palo Alto Online, the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce, Hometown Peninsula and the City of Palo Alto. Its aim is to raise awareness of the products and services offered by local merchants and their importance to the vitality of the community.
More than 900 Palo Alto businesses have already created their ShopPaloAlto profiles or posted information in preparation of the launch of the site.
"We are excited to launch what will be the most comprehensive and interactive local business directory available anywhere," said Bill Johnson, publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly.
"While there are many other attempts at business directories out there, none offer either residents or business owners the breadth of features of ShopPaloAlto.com," Johnson said. "And none are supported by the marketing reach of the local newspaper and the dominant community website."
With ShopPaloAlto.com, any business physically located in Palo Alto can create a free profile, including photos, product offerings, coupons, links to its website, gift certificates and much more. Businesses can promote their special events, create additional web pages and sell merchandise online. Restaurants can upload their menus. A verification process helps to ensure the greatest possible accuracy of the content.
Local residents can search for businesses by name or category, display profiles with maps and contact information, browse special offers of all merchants, buy gift certificates and post comments about individual businesses.
New offers or updates to a business's profile can be quickly spotted through a news feed on the site.
A multimedia marketing campaign will promote ShopPaloAlto.com through the Weekly, with its 70,000 readers; Palo Alto Online, with more than 130,000 unique visitors each month; and Express, the news digest e-mailed to more than 13,000 people each day.
In addition to ShopPaloAlto.com, similar sites are also being launched in Menlo Park (ShopMenloPark.com) and Mountain View (ShopMountainView.com.). Users of any of the sites can choose to search for businesses in the other communities as well.
The "shop local" movement is gaining visibility and supporters throughout the nation, as studies have shown that communities benefit more from dollars spent close to home. In addition to keeping sales-tax revenue in the community to support the schools and other programs, 68 percent of the money spent at a locally owned business remains in the community, compared to only 43 percent for national chain-store purchases, research has shown.
"This initiative will not only help connect local residents with local businesses, it will educate residents on why locally owned businesses are so important to the character, attractiveness and economic vitality of the community," said Clark Kepler, president and founder of Hometown Peninsula, one of the sponsors of ShopPaloAlto.com and an alliance of locally owned businesses.