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Nationwide Survey Shows Independent Business Alliances Are Increasing Revenue for Local Businesses

For the fourth year in a row, a national survey of independent businesses has found that those in communities with active Buy Independent / Buy Local (BIBL) campaigns experienced markedly stronger sales growth compared to those located in areas without such a campaign.

The survey by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance 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 retailers the benefit was even more dramatic. Those in communities with alliances like the Humboldt County Independent Business Alliance (HumIBA) gained a 5.2% increase in holiday sales, while retailers elsewhere reported an average gain of just 0.8%.

Educational campaigns run by Independent Business Alliances and Local First groups are underway in about 140 communities nationwide, including Humboldt County. Locally, the HumIBA ran television and radio commercials and holiday promotions in December to encourage local residents to “Go Local for the Holidays.” The group’s holiday campaign supplemented the work they do year-round to encourage local purchasing including their “Local Options” Independent Business Directory and a website where businesses can sign-up for free and residents can search and find an independent business to meet their needs.

“Over 300 residents signed our pledge to Go Local for the Holidays,” said HumIBA Coordinator Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap. “This survey just proves how important programs like the HumIBA really are. Going local really is good for everyone in the community, and more and more people are realizing that and changing their purchasing habits.”

Nearly two-thirds of respondents said that public awareness of the benefits of supporting locally owned businesses had increased in the last year.

Business owners in cities with active “BIBL” campaigns reported a wide range of positive impacts on their business. Almost half reported 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 local government officials were now more aware and supportive of the needs of independent businesses.

Complete results may be downloaded at http://www.newrules.org/sites/newrules.org/files/2011-ind-business-survey.pdf

Similar surveys over the last three years likewise found that independent businesses in cities with active “BIBL” campaigns reported stronger sales each year.

“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 ILSR, a nonprofit research and educational organization, in partnership with dozens of national and local business organizations, including the American Independent Business Alliance, American Booksellers Association, Alliance of Independent Media Stores,  American Specialty Toy Retailing Association, Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, National Bicycle Dealers Association, and TriMega Purchasing Association.

“This survey offers further proof that, with sustained efforts, communities can indeed raise local consciousness and build a culture of support for local entrepreneurs,” said Jennifer Rockne, executive director of the American Independent Business Alliance. “In Humboldt County, the campaign operated by the HumIBA is funded by businesses paying $25 or less per month in dues. These businesses are getting quite a return on their investment.”

More information about the Humboldt County Independent Business Alliance can be found at www.HumIBA.org.

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