Minneapolis — A nationwide survey of 1,382 independent dealers indicates that a desire to support locally owned businesses is emerging as a factor in consumers’ shopping choices.
The survey, which encompassed consumer electronics, major appliance and other specialty retailers spanning a wide range of categories, also found that despite the difficult economic climate many independents are holding their ground and even seeing sales gains by emphasizing their local ownership and community roots.
Indeed, retailers in cities with active “buy local” campaigns saw holiday sales increase about 2 percent on average over the 2006 season, while those in cities without such efforts reported an increase of less than 0.5 percent. “Buy local” programs have been launched by local business alliances in more than three dozen communities around the country.
The poll, conducted Jan. 2-15, was commissioned by the Independent Business Forum (IBF), a newly formed network of trade associations including the North American Retailer Dealers Association (NARDA), which represent independent businesses.
“NARDA is looking forward to being able to help our members as a result of information exchange with other associations that serve independent retailers,” said NARDA president/CEO Tom Drake. “This survey is very timely in light of what we see as a challenging economic environment in 2008.”
Eighty-two percent of the retailers surveyed said the fact that their business is locally owned and independent matters to their customers. Among their comments, one dealer observed that “people made a special effort to shop locally and were vocal about their support.” Another reported that “our customers are responding to hearing this message both locally and nationally,” IBF said.
“We’re seeing the beginnings of a shift in people’s shopping choices, particularly in places where ‘buy local’ campaigns have brought this to the forefront of public consciousness,” said Stacy Mitchell, senior researcher for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, which administered the survey, and author of “Big-Box Swindle.” “‘Locally owned’ is following in the footsteps of ‘organic’ as people look for ways to support a more sustainable economy and revitalize their communities.”
The IBF plans to repeat the survey next year, and is collaborating on initiatives to increase public awareness of the value of locally owned businesses and to address the public policy issues that affect them. For more information contact Mitchell at (207) 774-6792 or [email protected].