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Survey: Independent businesses find success with ‘buy local’ campaigns Print Email
Written by Jeremy Burns   
Thursday, 13 February 2014 11:58 AM America/New_York

Munce-ShopLocal-webA survey released this month of independent business owners across the U.S., including bookstores, has found that the “buy local” message is helping to build customer traffic. However, businesses are still looking for policymakers to find ways to level the playing field for small businesses seeking to compete with their larger rivals.

“This data confirms what we experience assisting communities with ‘buy local and independent’ campaigns — they are raising consciousness and driving more business to local independents,” said Jeff Milchen, co-director of the American Independent Business Alliance. “The data is inspiring and suggests the future will be bright for America’s entrepreneurs once we change policies that handicap independent businesses.”

In the survey of 2,602 owners conducted by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance in partnership with the Advocates for Independent Business coalition, independent retailers reported average same-store revenue growth of 2.3% in 2013, with a 1.4% increase in holiday sales.

Three-quarters of businesses located in cities with active “local first” campaigns reported increased customer traffic or other benefits from these initiatives, with 42% describing the impact as “moderate” or “significant.” They also reported an average sales growth of 7% in 2013, compared to 2.3% for independent businesses in communities without such an initiative. Further, 62% of surveyed owners believe public awareness of the benefits of supporting locally owned businesses have increased, with only 3% believing awareness has decreased.

For businesses that applied for a bank loan in the past two years, 42% either failed to obtain a loan or received a loan for less than the amount needed.

Competition from large Internet companies was ranked as the biggest challenge facing independent businesses, with 69% of retailers citing it as a very or extremely significant challenge. Other top concerns include supplier pricing that favors their big competitors, high costs for health insurance and escalating commercial rents.

More than three-quarters of independent retailers said that the fact that many online companies are not required to collect sales tax had negatively impacted their sales, with 41% describing the level of impact on their sales as “significant.” Independent businesses cited the top policy priorities as extending the requirement to collect sales tax to large online retailers, eliminating public subsidies and tax breaks for big companies, and regulating the swipe fees charged by Visa and Mastercard.