If you’ve ever seen a ‘buy local’ bumper sticker or stopped at the local farmers’ market on a Saturday morning, then you’ve seen the buy local movement at work. Through business alliances, local chambers of commerce and community events, the movement encourages consumers to support locally-owned, independent businesses because of the unique and rewarding benefits they have to offer. It’s a growing movement that’s making a difference in the minds of consumers and in the pockets of small business owners nationwide – but it’s up to you to make it work for your business.
The buy local movement promotes the idea that small businesses make better communities. Our communities are inevitably weakened by natural disasters, national economic crises and government gridlock at all levels, but small businesses are the key to making them strong again. According to Civic Economics and the American Booksellers Association, small businesses return more than three times as much money per dollar of sales to the community than national chains. They also create high-quality jobs for members of the community and give back to local causes.
Buy local groups, like Independent We Stand, the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) and the American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA), raise awareness of the buy local movement on a national level and help individual businesses to leverage the movement in their communities. They do this by providing marketing materials, research and networking opportunities for small business owners. They generate buzz about the buy local movement online and they help small businesses celebrate their independence with campaigns like Small Business Saturday and National Small Business Week.
This work translates to real results for the members of buy local groups. First, the buy local movement has transformed the way consumers make buying decisions. For example, 94% of U.S. consumers say that shopping at small businesses makes them “feel good,” according to the 2014 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey. The same survey revealed that two-thirds of consumers say they patronize small businesses mainly because they value the contributions that they make to their communities. The buy local movement has made consumers aware of the benefits of shopping small, and consumers have responded by showing their support.
Second, buy local groups have helped divert consumer spending to small businesses and away from national chains. As consumers become more aware of the benefits of buying local, they increasingly choose to spend their money at small businesses rather than at big box stores.
Buy local groups also advise their members on how to engage with new and existing customers online, in the community and at the point-of-sale. According to the 2015 Independent Business Survey by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and Advocates for Independent Business, small businesses located in a community with an active buy local initiative saw an average increase in sales of 9.3% throughout 2014. Meanwhile, small businesses located elsewhere saw an average increase of just 4.9%. That’s clear and measureable progress as a result of cooperation among small businesses and buy local groups.
What’s more, support for the buy local movement grows every day – even among big brands. Tire Pros, a franchise division of American Tire Distributors and the nation’s largest network of elite, independent tire dealers, is the latest to join the Independent We Stand sponsorship team, enabling their independently-owned dealers to reap the rewards of joining a buy local group. In 2013, Tire Pros launched its “Feel Good, Buy Local” campaign that continues to position it as the premier group of independent and family-owned tire stores with the same national products at competitive pricing, warranties and other services as the big box retailers, but with the approachable and friendly customer service of the local independent.
“Tire Pros has always been committed to the independent tire dealer, and our sole purpose is to help them become more profitable. One way we are doing this is through marketing branding initiatives where we can tell our story,” said Quick Chadwick, marketing director for Tire Pros. “We strongly believe that our elite independent dealer network provides a better retail experience for customers and a more sound economy for the communities because Tire Pros dealers are dedicated to investing in them. That’s a big part of the story we want to tell, and our partnership with Independent We Stand is helping us do that.”
Brands like Tire Pros and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles drive the buy local movement forward by supporting their independently owned dealers and contributing to a movement that aligns with their values.
For stronger communities, more resilient local economies, and more charming Main Streets, the buy local movement is a must. The buy local movement works for small businesses so that small businesses may work for the community. To make the buy local movement work for your business, join a buy local group like Independent We Stand and start spreading the word about the importance and strong economic benefits that your business brings to the local community.
Bill Brunelle is the co-founder of Independent We Stand and has spent more than 25 years helping small local businesses. Independent We Stand is sponsored by STIHL, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, PPG Pittsburgh Paints and Tire Pros.