The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), a nonprofit focused on sustainable community development, released the findings of its sixth annual Independent Business Survey. Conducted in partnership with dozens of business organizations, the survey gathered data from 2,377 independent businesses across all fifty states. Among its findings:
- Independent businesses in communities with an active “Buy Local First” initiative reported average revenue growth of 8.6 percent in 2012, compared to 3.4 percent for those in areas without such an initiative. One hundred eleven West Michigan businesses responded to the survey.
Of those respondents:
- 78 percent reported an increase in annual sales in 2012 (versus 2011).
- 89 percent said that being locally-owned and independent mattered to some or most of their customers.
- 54 percent stated that the “local first” campaign brought new customers, and 44 percent felt it improved the loyalty of existing customers.
- 77 percent thought that public awareness of the benefits of thinking “local first” had increased over the previous year.
“This is good news for West Michigan,” said Local First Executive Director Elissa Hillary. “A 2008 study showed that shifting $1 in $10 currently being spent in Kent County to locally-owned businesses would create 1,600 jobs and nearly $140 million in new economic impact (“Local Works!,” Civic Economics). For the sixth year in a row, we’re seeing that shift take place. Individuals are choosing to support community-based businesses.”
“Consumers continue to become more and more aware of the benefits of spending their money locally. Organizations such as Local First that are actively spreading and promoting those benefits, and helping to connect consumers and businesses, are vital to our growth,” said Kyle Zimdar, Frames Unlimited owner. “Local First helps us connect to locally focused consumers via the business directory, networking functions, and through advertising and sponsorship opportunities.”
“Local First solidifies an increasingly common desire in people to think smart about shopping in their neighborhood or using smaller noncorporate entities to complete their work and enjoy life,” said Amy Ruis, Art of the Table owner.
“Building a strong local community is important to our business,” said Chris Reinbold, The Funky Buddha Yoga Hothouse owner. “One of the first things we did upon opening was join Local First to help with this, and over the past two-plus years we have seen fantastic growth.”