A video of Stacy Mitchell's presentation, "How Shop Local Movements Are Saving Small Businesses," at the Pre-Winter Institute Conference on Local First/Shop Local Initiatives is now available via BookWeb.org. The senior researcher for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) and author of Big Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for American's Independent Businesses (Beacon) is a frequent speaker at regional and national gatherings on Local First efforts, and here she shares insights on the movement's progress and the how-tos of establishing community-changing independent business alliances (IBAs).
Pointing to ILSR's recent national survey of more than 1,100 independent retailers in a wide range of categories (books, toys, clothing, etc.), Mitchell noted that during the holiday season indie businesses weathered a challenging economy much better than the chains. And those indies who were active in Buy Local campaigns faired better than the chains and indies without an IBA.
Neighboring businesses can create the kind of downtown- or Main Street-wide events that attract media attention, she said, and this low-cost or no-cost coverage typically draws new customers. Working together also generates goodwill. "It's a powerful gesture," said Mitchell. "Simply seeing one business promoting another in a community makes customers think that local businesses are a part of a cooperative local economy."
She also noted that when businesses work together they have greater leverage with local governments. "Many city governments are responding to this movement by rethinking how they do economic development and planning to better support the local economy," Mitchell said, adding that this "will nurture community and local economy and build true prosperity for the future."