Independent Businesses Get Organized


As a follow-up to yesterday’s post on independent business, here are some interesting figures from the American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA).  According to their January 15, 2009 press release, a survey of 1,142 independent retailers found that holiday sales at independents declined an average of 5.0% from the same period last year compared to a 9.7% decrease in all retail.

The survey was conducted for AMIBA, so it’s not surprising that the results were favorible to their cause, but it’s still impressive to note that independent retailers in cities with “Buy Local” organizations saw sales drops of 3.2%, much better than the 5.9% decline in cities without such organizations.

I swear that I read the press release after posting yesterday’s article.  The following quote certainly backs up what I said.  It’s from Jeff Milchen, AMIBA co-founder:  “While most economic recovery stories focus on national policy, finding ways to recycle money within the local economy is the most effective economic stimulus for most communities.

Milchen recently published a feature in the San Francisco Chronicle, “The Next Bubble to Burst?” urging communities to enact laws that encourage the growth of small, local  business.

Yesterday I mentioned some reasons why consumers should support local business, but here are some more that you might highlight in your store from an handout called “The Hometown Advantage.” from the New Rules Project, another group that promotes local business.

  • Jobs and Tax Revenue. New chain stores create jobs and pay taxes, but at the expense of existing local businesses.
  • Public Costs. Spread-out land use patterns raise the cost of roads, sewers, and police and fire services.  The costs of retail sprawl can exceed additional tax revenues, if any.
  • Local Economy. Mom and pop keep the money local.  The big bux stores send it out of town.
  • Consumer Choice. Centralized buying reduces the number of suppliers, limiting choice for consumers and opportunities for small suppliers.
  • Long-term Prosperity. Research is showing that trading a vibrant downtown for cookie-cutter development reduces the attractiveness of a community, limiting the prospect for future investment and well-paying jobs.
  • Environment. Chain store sprawl is harmful to the environment, increasing automobile usage, air pollution, and stormwater runoff.
  • Community. Local business owners are often very involved in community activities.  They give more money to charity.

Check out AMIBA’s web site, or the New Rules Project, or the Institute For Local Self-Reliance. There may already be a “Buy Local” organization  in your town.   If not, starting such an organization is a fairly simple project, especially if you can involve other like-minded members early in the process to share the work.

Clearly many Americans want to buy from you.  All you have to do is give them a little nudge.

AMIBA window decal

AMIBA window decal

2 Responses

  1. It’s worth noting that there are a lot of weak “buy local” campaigns that make little impact. I suspect the survey involved groups assisted by AMIBA, which are pretty sophisticated and do much more than standard PR campaigns. I love that the AMIBA decals talk about self-interest to customers, not just “be nice and buy local.”

  2. You make a very good point. A bad organization might be worse than no organization at all. One key to competing with the big guys is to under-promise and over-deliver. If the program isn’t first class from top to bottom, the consumer will just be disappointed and the result will be exactly opposite of what we’re looking for.

    Thanks for joining the converstaion.

    P.S. Be sure to read Heather’s comment on the previous post.

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