The American Booksellers Association has entered into a new partnership with Civic Economics — the Austin-based research firm that examines the economic benefits of local, independent retailers — to offer communities the opportunity to facilitate their own localized indie impact study. Beginning immediately, up to 10 communities with an active ABA member bookstore may work directly with Civic Economics to create a customized study at a reduced rate.
“Over the years, Civic Economics has been approached for studies by many booksellers and independent business alliance leaders, but the costs have been outside the reach of many organizations,” said ABA CEO Oren Teicher. “We’re delighted that Civic Economics welcomed ABA’s approach about bundling multiple studies over the next year in order to reduce the cost to participating communities. As a result, we can now offer an affordable way for communities to fund their own study that can concretely demonstrate the value of local indie businesses.”
Communities with active ABA members may engage directly with Civic Economics for a customized local study for a fee of $2,400, a significant reduction in what these studies have cost in the past. And as further incentive and support, ABA will contribute 25 percent of that fee.
The local studies will compare the economic benefits of independent storefront retailers to examples of four large chain stores: a general merchandise discount chain, a home center chain, a bookseller chain, and a warehouse club. Local sponsoring entities will be responsible for recruiting independent retail owners to complete an intrusive but confidential survey of revenues and expenditures.
At the conclusion of the study series, each community will receive a local report of findings, emphasizing the economic benefits of supporting local business. These studies have, in the past, provided the independent business organizations in study communities with substantial media coverage and opportunities to educate both consumers and policy makers about the value of independents.
In communities such as Austin, Texas; Andersonville, Illinois; San Francisco; New Orleans; and elsewhere, economic study results have provided persuasive evidence to local policymakers and consumers about the value of creating a supportive small businesses environment and ensuring that independent businesses, whether through economic development or otherwise, survive.
Nine years ago, Civic Economics worked with BookPeople and Waterloo Records in Austin, Texas, to create the Livable City retail impact study, which showed that independents returned three times as much to the local economy as a proposed chain bookstore. The chain project died, and the independent business community in Austin continues to thrive and to garner media coverage for its “Keep Austin Weird” campaign.
Tom Campbell of The Regulator Bookshop in Durham, North Carolina, created a brochure based on statistics from a Civic Economics study in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to show that just a 10 percent shift in customer dollars from chain businesses to local independent businesses would result in up to 800 new jobs in the Durham area.
In 2009, Tom Lowenburg of Octavia Books said that a study of 15 locally owned New Orleans merchants in the Magazine Street area was “very important to understanding what direction New Orleans and other places should go in terms of economic development. It confirmed what we believed all along about what’s really driving the economy.”
Because Civic Economics is limiting the bundling to 10 studies, interested stores, community groups, or IBAs should contact Dan Houston at Civic Economics as soon as possible to discuss participation. Further details about how the study will work, the responsibilities of the sponsoring organization, the payment terms, and more is available here. Results of previous Civic Economics studies are available here.