A new survey of independent business owners across the U.S. and Canada yielded powerful evidence that pro-local attitudes are growing and driving customer traffic. The results also indicate that the educational work of Monadnock Buy Local and similarly organized groups are yielding large benefits for their members and local economy.
The annual survey by the Institute for Local Self Reliance (ILSR) and Advocates for Independent Business tallied responses from more than 3,000 independent businesses. Just under half were retailers, while restaurants, service providers and others comprised smaller portions.
- Independent businesses in communities with an active “buy independent/buy local” campaign run by grassroots groups saw revenues grow 9.3% in 2014, nearly double the 4.9% increase for businesses in areas without such an alliance.
- Overall, independent businesses reported revenue growth of 8.1% on average in 2014. Monadnock Region independent businesses reported revenue growth of 10.3% on average in 2014.
- The retailers surveyed experienced a 5.1% increase in same-store sales and 4.8% increase in holiday sales, beating the growth of many competing chains. Retailers in the Monadnock Region experienced a 10.8% increase in holiday sales.
- Wages paid by respondents equaled or exceeded their chain competitors. 41% of independents’ employees make between $10 and $15 hourly, while 34% make $15 or more hourly.
- 69% of businesses located in cities with an active Independent Business Alliance / Local First organization reported increased customer traffic or other benefits from these initiatives.
“The efforts of Monadnock Buy Local to promote the benefits of shopping at locally owned businesses was certainly evident in our stores,” stated Willard Williams, co-owner of The Toadstool Bookshops. “Many, many people told us they were doing all their holiday shopping locally. Plaid Friday, Shift Your Shopping — I’m confident all this contributed to the 11% increase in December sales at our bookstore in Keene.”
“The work of dedicated community coalitions continues to shift local consciousness and is driving more business to local entrepreneurs,” said Jeff Milchen, co-director of the American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA), which partnered in the survey. Monadnock Buy Local is a member of AMIBA, a national network of more than 85 community alliances supporting local entrepreneurs.
The survey also assessed major concerns of independent business owners, indicating:
- Among retailers, 71% said competition from large internet companies was the biggest challenge facing their business, followed by supplier pricing that favors their big competitors, chain competition and other issues.
- Top policy priorities among respondents are extending the requirement to collect sales tax to large online retailers and enforcing antitrust laws against large, dominant companies.
- For independent businesses, which applied for bank loans within the past two years, 30% were denied and another 14% received less money than requested. Businesses owned by people of color, women and immigrants were far less likely to get loans.
“More people are seeking out independent businesses, which we know from academic research is great news for job creation, income growth and the well-being of communities,” said Stacy Mitchell, senior researcher at ILSR. “Now we need policymakers to step up and create a level playing field to allow locally owned businesses to really thrive.”
With more than 150 members, Monadnock Buy Local plans to expand its work this year by encouraging businesses, organizations and municipalities to adopt innovations that forward a local, green and fair economy.
Download the 2015 Independent Business Report (PDF).