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Independent Retailers: An Appreciation

I’ve been to more than my share of buying group meetings over the years — really too many to count, especially Nationwide PrimeTime! events where the majority of members are independents of all types and sizes. 8/15/2013 10:50:00 AM

I’ve been to more than my share of buying group meetings over the years — really too many to count, especially Nationwide PrimeTime! events where the majority of members are independents of all types and sizes.

Many of the regional powerhouses with the PRO Group and NATM Buying Group started as small local operations. Nationwide members who run independent stores are the same types of people who are members of its rivals Brand Source and Mega Group, and the gone-but-not-forgotten groups, such as MARTA and Key America.

Most are family-owned privately held businesses, run for a generation or three (if they are lucky) who banded together long ago to get the same type of pricing publicly held national chains get on a regular basis.

They stick their collective necks out every day to battle retail goliaths, while paying their bills and taxes, training their staffs, meeting payrolls and —  biggest challenge — satisfying the needs of their customers.

Some people get it. One is Jeff Knock, appliances senior VP for Nationwide Marketing Group, who said to me at PrimeTime!: “Our members are our bosses. That’s how I look at it. They are out there every day opening their stores and serving their customers.”

After a five-year period where Congress, the financial community and many multinational corporations have elongated the Great Recession by either doing nothing, hoarding cash or both, I think more than a few consumers out there now realize that we need small, local independent businesses more than ever.

Local independents, entrepreneurs in the best sense, not only provide the service few national chains can, but they pay their fair share of taxes and maintain and create good-paying jobs in many communities across the country.

I dare say that more should be done, as a matter of economic policy, to support independent retailers and small businesses in particular. It has been proven over and over again that they are the lifeblood of local, state and national economies.

If you can’t create good-paying jobs that are relatively stable, I don’t care how wonderful OLED, Ultra HD or the newest French door refrigerators are; few people will be able to afford to buy them.

And if you’re waiting for a U.S.-founded and now multinational corporation to pay its fair share of taxes and actually create more, well-paying jobs in this country, well, I have a bridge I can sell you back here in Brooklyn.

Knock said in our talk that after a distinguished career on the major appliance vendor side, “it is my time to give back [to this industry] and share my expertise to help our independent retailers.”

That’s a sentiment I heartily agree with. Independent retailers are doing their share. But a heck of a lot more can and should be done by our elected leaders, with plenty of prodding from all of us to back small businesses of all types.

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