The Sustainable Business Council Blog


Nationwide Survey Shows Power of “Buy Local” Campaigns
February 5, 2010, 5:18 AM
Filed under: Uncategorized

Locally-owned independent businesses outperform average retailer sales during 2009 holidays. Those with active Buy Local campaigns fared best.


MINNEAPOLIS – Jan. 14, 2010 – More holiday shoppers deliberately sought out locally owned businesses this year, according to a national survey of more than 1,800 independent businesses.

The survey found that holiday sales for independent retailers were up an average of 2.2%. That contrasts with the U.S. Department of Commerce figures released today, which show that overall retail sales were down 0.3% in December and up 1.8% in November.
The survey also found that independent retailers in cities with active “Buy Independent / Buy Local” or “Local First” campaigns reported stronger holiday sales than those in cities without such campaigns. These campaigns have been launched in more than 100 cities and towns. Independent retailers in these cities reported an average increase in holiday sales of 3.0%, compared to 1.0% for those in cities without an active Buy Local initiative.
Nearly 80% of those surveyed said public awareness of the value of choosing locally owned businesses had increased in the last year (16% said it had stayed the same).
“The buzz about buying local was louder among my customers this year than any other year,” said a shoe store owner in Michigan.

“We’ve had many customers say they are making a real effort to ‘Buy Local’ this year. A number of customers said they saw an item at a chain store or online, and came back to us to purchase it,” said a retailer in Maine.

A bookstore owner in Oregon added that the growing public awareness and support for independent businesses “has been critical to our ability to stay in business during down economic times.”

The survey was conducted by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a nonprofit research organization, in partnership with several business organizations, including the American Booksellers Association, American Independent Business Alliance, American Specialty Toy Retailers Association, Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, and National Bicycle Dealers Association.

Similar surveys in 2009 and 2008 likewise found that independent businesses in cities with Buy Local campaigns reported stronger sales than those in communities without such an initiative.

“This survey adds to the growing body of evidence that people are increasingly bypassing big business in favor of local entrepreneurs,” said Stacy Mitchell, senior researcher with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. “Amid the worst downtown in more than 60 years, independent businesses are managing to succeed by emphasizing their community roots and local ownership.”

“These results reinforce what we’ve heard from our local affiliates — that their campaigns are yielding real dividends and shifting local spending,” said Jennifer Rockne, director of the American Independent Business Alliance. “That’s good news for their local economies. Studies show that small businesses keep more dollars circulating locally and generate the majority of new jobs.”

“For the third year in a row, this study demonstrates the bottom-line impact of local business alliances running Think Local First campaigns,” said Michelle Long, executive director of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies. “Local entrepreneurs are the bedrock of the U.S. economy and, when they work together, they make our communities more resilient, unique, and rewarding places to live.”

“This survey demonstrates how important such campaigns are in helping independent businesses achieve greater sales,” said American Booksellers Association CEO Oren Teicher. “This insight about consumers’ preferences is consistent with what we have seen since the launch of IndieBound in 2008. Shoppers value authenticity, they want to connect with and to strengthen their communities, and they recognize that bigger is not always better. Because of that, we believe that this is a time of great potential for locally owned businesses that are committed to working together.”

Notes: for almost all respondents from communities with Buy Local campaigns in this survey, those campaigns are executed by groups affiliated of AMIBA or BALLE. These groups engage in year-round, community-wide educational efforts and these results may not translate to Buy Local campaigns that operate seasonally or without organizational support.

Also, all of those groups promote local and independent business. Campaigns simply urging people to shop locally to keep tax revenues local, without regard to local ownership, may or may not yield measurable impact.

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