Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Why Sustain A Bull Uses Independent vs. Local

There is a reason Durham’s new movement Sustain A Bull doesn’t use terms like “buy local.”  The term “local” was hijacked long ago by chains stores featuring a couple of so-called local items and distorted especially by television and radio stations masquerading “local” in the guise here of Nielsen’s 22-county area designated market.Sustain A Bull

Sustain A Bull – Shop Independent Durham is the real deal and the chart below shows what independent or truly “local” stores are up against.

Sustain A Bull shouldn’t be confused with Try It Local, a national coupon program subsequently launched here and promoted by chambers of commerce to raise non-dues revenue (10% of each coupon redeemed.)2007-census-revenue

I suspect the Durham Chamber is limiting participation to members but that probably doesn’t mean they are truly “local” or even independent.  I hope I’m wrong.

The Durham Chamber for instance has 900 members, a good portion of Durham’s 6,000+ businesses overall. However, because chambers everywhere have been compelled to forage wherever they can for members, many members are not local and participate as a means to appear local.

In my experience with chambers, including 19 years serving on boards, understandably “member” trumps “local” even though many are subsidized by local governments to pursue relocating or expanding businesses as a means to generate local jobs and local tax base.  Pure and simple, larger members pay the freight which is the inherent dilemma with the membership model that confounds so many excellent chamber execs here and across the country.

Almost immediately after I moved to Durham more than two decades ago, truly local places like The Regulator Bookshop, Parker & Otis (then Fowlers,) Morgan Imports, Durham Garden Center, Stone Bros. & Byrd, Ox & Rabbit (then McDonald’s,) Wentworth & Leggett Rare Books, James Kennedy Antiques and Brightleaf Square along with Durham’s colony of nationally recognized restaurants and other local favorites became regular stops.

Upon each visit my daughter (she was just turning 16 when I was recruited here to launch Durham’s official community marketing organization) immediately wanted to visit these places that are so much of what gives Durham its special personality.   You can see from this next chart though how rapidly market share for these Independent stores has eroded over the period.2007-census-percapita

DCVB has given truly local outlets special treatment for years not only because these placed-based assets are part of what gives Durham its distinct personality but because the local economic impact they generate is far greater than chains.  If they haven’t already, I’m sure DCVB will strategically partner with Sustain A Bull.

Not only do Independent businesses have to compete with chains but national organizations that purport to represent small, independent businesses like the US Chamber and National Federation of Independent Businesses are exposed by the fact that nearly 90% of the political efforts by organizations like these go to Republicans, while an American Express study reveals that 32% of small business owners affiliate with Democrats and 35% are Independent.

Small, independent, locally owned businesses deserve our support.  Research shows and successful community marketing proves that even larger businesses are drawn first by workforce and the creative or “knowledge” workforce, so in demand now, is drawn most by organic districts in a community with a “smorgasbord” of small, Independent, unique businesses.

For excellent information on the importance of Independent, local businesses, go to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance or The New Rules Project.

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