July is “Independent Retailer Month.” It is a shop-local event – similar to “Small Business Saturday” or “Plaid Friday” during the holidays – aimed at raising awareness of the value independent retailers and small business bring to our communities. It is also about encouraging local consumers to shop local and celebrate the small business owners.
An independent retailer is one who builds its business without the help of an established brand. There are an estimated 30.2 million small businesses in the United States, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.
You will see them most often concentrated in our downtown business districts. These are typically the small businesses that make our communities thrive.
These businesses may be just a single store or a small number of stores. But the businesses are not so big that they have a corporate headquarters in some other location. Often, these businesses are run by a single owner or two and have a few employees.
And that – making communities thrive, local ownership and employees – is why independent retailers need our support.
Efforts to promote shopping local appear to be working. According to the Commonwealth Financial Group, over the last several years, there has been a shift in consumer purchasing behavior marked by a preference among consumers to support locally owned shops and stores over big-box retailers and even online shopping.
Much research has shown that the money spent in local stores stays in the community and is returned to the local economy at a much higher rate than a dollar spent in a “big box” store. Consider this oft-cited statistic: If every family in the United States spent an extra $10 a month at locally owned, independent businesses instead of at a national chain store, more than $9.3 billion dollars would be returned to local economies, according to CustomMade Infographic and noted on the Independent Retailer Month website, indieretailermonth.com.
Here are some key reasons why shopping locally is important not only to small business owners, but also the communities they call home and the customers they serve:
n More money stays in the community: According to the American Independent Business Alliance, for every $100 spent at a local business, $68 remains in the community. Conversely, only 43 percent of every $100 spent at a chain retailer stays in the community.
n Job creation: The Business Alliance for Local Living Economies says local businesses create the majority of economic growth. They employ millions of Americans by creating roughly two-thirds of private sector jobs. Local business owners also tend to hire people who represent the demographics of the community in which the business is located, which may include historically underserved populations.
n Diversity of products: Local stores tend to diversify their products and services to meet the needs of the local communities, whereas chain stores often stock their shelves based on national demands.
n Personalized service: A small business owner may be more inclined to go to great lengths to make customers happy because the long-term success of the business depends on customers becoming repeat customers.
n Personal connection: Knowing the people behind a business facilitates a connection not easily achieved with other companies. Customers may celebrate when a favorite business succeeds and look to spread the word about that business because they feel like they played a positive role in its success.
The four-county GLOW region is blessed to have many such shops and businesses. They all add to the economic vitality of Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming counties. These include jewelers, gift shops, appliance and home improvement stores, and landscaping and other services – and so many other businesses that help to make our communities unique.
Some of them are highlighted in today’s paper – along with ways that you can support local businesses – as part of a special “Independent Retailer Month” two-page spread.
These businesses rely on their communities to support them not just this month, but every month. So remember to “Shop local!”