A new survey of independent business owners yielded powerful evidence that pro-local attitudes are growing, driving customer traffic and indicates the educational work of Thrive's Buy Local - Buy Rogue campaign and more than one hundred similarly-organized groups are yielding large benefits for their members and local economy.
The annual survey by the Institute for Local Self Reliance (ILSR) tallied responses from 3259 independent businesses. Just under half were retailers while service providers, manufacturers, farmers, banks, restaurants, wholesalers, and others comprised smaller portions. Among the notable results:
- Independent businesses in communities with an active “buy independent/buy local” campaign run by grassroots groups like Thrive saw revenues grow 7.4% in 2015, — 43% more than the 4.2% increase for businesses in areas without such an alliance.
- Growth in Southern Oregon was even larger with participants reporting an 11.7% growth in 2015 revenue, well above the national average of 4.2%.
- Despite increasing online sales, independent retailers surveyed experienced a 3.1% increase in holiday sales, beating many competing chains who reported an average 1.6% growth in the 4th quarter.
- Two-thirds of respondents in communities with grassroots groups like Thrive indicated the group is having a noticeable positive impact on their business. 75% of Rogue Valley business owners who actively market their participation in Thrive's Buy Local - Buy Rogue campaign reported it had a significant or moderate positive impact on their business, while 58% of those who are listed as group members but don’t promote it reported the same result.
- Over one-quarter of Thrive businesses members indicated their participation had led them to become more engaged in advocating on public policy issues. 54% said the group had raised the awareness and support of independent businesses by elected officials.
The survey also assessed major concerns of independent business owners, indicating:
- Among retailers, 70% said competition from large internet companies was a “very significant” challenge facing their business.
- The rising cost of commercial rents, credit card swipe fees, high health insurance cost, lack of enforcement of anti-trust laws.
- For independent businesses which applied for bank loans within the past two years, 32% were denied. Of young businesses, 41% were denied, and for businesses owned by people of color, that number is 54%.
“In our survey, many expressed a determination to build on the momentum of the ‘buy local’ movement to press for policies that will give small, local businesses a better opportunity to compete and thrive,” said Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.
Thrive, with more than 130 business members, is expanding the Buy Local - Buy Rogue message to the important issue of local investing. "Oregon's new Community Public Offering investment tool allows Oregonians to invest in Oregon businesses and giving small business owners another source of capital," explained Thrive Director Wendy Siporen.
Interested business owners are invited to learn more about Thrive membership and Community Public Offerings at Thrive's next business networking social, 5-6:30pm Wednesday March 23 at TonTon's Community Casbah, 106 Talent Ave., Talent. Community Public Offerings will also be the topic of the 6-7pm March 21 Green Drinks at Capers Restaurant in Medford. For more information or to RSVP, contact Thrive at 541-897-0612.
The full 2016 ILSR report (pdf) may be downloaded here.