As numbers and analysis of the 2009 holiday retail season are pouring in, there is a glimmer of hope for small and independent, locally-owned businesses. According to a survey of over 1,800 businesses, they saw an increase in holiday shoppers this year. While the United States Department of Commerce says overall retail sales were down 0.3% during December, 2009, the survey found that independent retailers' sales were up an average of 2.2%.
So what helped these independent retailers? According to the survey, it was in part, cities with active "buy Local/Buy Independent" campaigns. Simply put, the cities with such campaigns enjoyed higher sales than those without. As a matter of fact, independent retailers in these 100 cities and towns with active campaigns actually saw a 3.0% increase.
Almost 80% of the businesses surveyed said they believed public awareness of buying locally had increased over the last year, while 16% said it stayed the same. Many business owners, including a shoe store owner in Michigan, a retailer in Maine, and a bookstore owner in Oregon, attribute everything from their ability to stay in business to through the recession to their growth in sales to the campaigns. One even said they had customers look up an item online or in a chain store and come back to their stores to make the purchase.
The Institute for Local Self-Reliance conducted the survey in partnership with a number of 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.. The Institute for Local Self-Reliance is a non-profit, research organization. Surveys conducted about the 2007 and 2008 holiday shopping seasons found similar results.
"This survey adds to the growing body of evidence that people are increasingly bypassing big business in favor of local entrepreneurs. Amid the worst downturn in more than 60 years, independent businesses are managing to succeed by emphasizing their community roots and local ownership," said Stacy Mitchell, a senior researcher with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance told the American Independent Business Alliance.
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