A large national survey has found that public support for independent businesses led to brisk sales and a sharp increase in hiring in 2015, but biased policies and other obstacles are limiting their success.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MINNEAPOLIS, MINN. (Feb. 10, 2016) — Independent businesses experienced healthy sales growth in 2015, buoyed by their strong community ties and growing public awareness of the benefits of locally owned businesses, according to a large national survey released today. (Download the full report.)
The Independent Business Survey, which is conducted by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance in partnership with the Advocates for Independent Business and is now in its 9th year, gathered data from over 3,200 independent businesses. The respondents reported brisk sales in 2015, with revenue growing an average of 6.6 percent. Among independent retailers, who comprised just under half of survey respondents, revenue increased 4.7 percent in 2015, including a 3.1 percent gain during the holiday season. These figures contrast sharply with the performance of many national retail chains, and overall holiday retail sales, which rose just 1.6 percent in December according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.
This growth led to a significant increase in hiring. Overall employment at the independent businesses surveyed expanded by 5.6 percent in 2015, with more than 30 percent of respondents reporting the addition of at least one employee.
Local First initiatives are part of what’s strengthening independent businesses, the survey found. Two-thirds of respondents in cities with an active Local First, or “buy local,” campaign said that the initiative is having a noticeable positive impact on their business, citing benefits such as new customers and increased loyalty among existing customers.
About one-third of businesses in Local First cities also said that the initiative had led them to become more engaged in advocating on public policy issues, and 44 percent said that the campaign had made elected officials more aware and supportive of independent businesses.
That’s significant because the survey also found that independent businesses are facing a number of challenges, many related to public policy.
One obstacle is a lack of credit for businesses seeking to grow. The survey found that one in three independent businesses that applied for a bank loan in the last two years failed to secure one. That figure was 54 percent among minority-owned businesses, and 41 percent among young firms, whose expansion has historically been a key source of net job growth. Continue reading
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Recent findings from prominent economists, sociologists, and other researchers suggest that small, local businesses are critical to overcoming many of our biggest challenges, from reducing economic inequality to building resilient communities. We round up the new studies and what they tell us about why policymakers should focus on local business in 2016. Continue reading