For the fourth year in a row, a national survey of independent businesses has found that those in communities with an active “buy local” campaign have experienced markedly stronger revenue growth compared to those located in areas without such a campaign.
The survey, which was conducted over an 8-day period in January, gathered data from 2,768 independent businesses, including retailers, service providers, restaurants and others. It found that those in places with a “buy local” initiative reported revenue growth of 5.6% on average in 2010, compared to 2.1% for those elsewhere.
Among independent retailers, which accounted for nearly half the respondents, there was a similar gap in holiday sales performance, with those in “buy local” communities seeing a 5.2% increase in holiday sales, while those elsewhere reported an average gain of 0.8%.
“Buy local” campaigns run by Independent Business Alliances and Local First groups are now underway in about 140 cities nationwide. The Upper Valley Local First Alliance introduced the Think Local First campaign for the holiday season.
Nearly two-thirds of respondents said that public awareness of the benefits of supporting locally owned businesses had increased in the last year, while 24% said it had stayed the same and only 3% said it had decreased.
Business owners in cities with active “buy local” campaigns reported a wide range of positive impacts on their business. Almost half reported that the campaign had brought new customers to their business and 55% said it had made existing customers more loyal. More than two-thirds said local media coverage of independent businesses had increased and 51% said that local government officials were now more aware and supportive of the needs of independent businesses.
Comments from survey participants highlighted key challenges facing independent businesses, including the weak economy and government policies that often favor their large competitors. Yet businesses active in “buy local” initiatives repeatedly cited these efforts as making a difference in their survival and success. “It is abundantly clear to me that a greater percentage of the public is attuned to the value of supporting local independents compared to just a couple years ago,” noted one Arizona business owner.
The survey was conducted by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a nonprofit research and educational organization, in partnership with dozens of national and local business organizations.
“This survey adds to the growing body of evidence that people are increasingly seeking out independent businesses and that shift is having a tangible impact on the bottom line,” said Stacy Mitchell, senior researcher with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.
“Many of my holiday customers did make a conscious effort to shop locally “ said Susan Morgan of Yankee Bookshop. “I see more and more local people making the choice to keep their dollars local. The movement to shop locally is slowly building in our community.”
This article first appeared in the March 10th print edition of the Vermont Standard.