Tuesday, September 04, 2012

New Data Supporting the Value of Independents

During a stop to pick up my daughter and two grandsons in Salt Lake City during my recently-completed 6,100-mile road trip last month, a newly completed study caught my eye.

Using detailed surveys from local businesses and data gleaned from the annual reports of restaurant and retail store chains, the study contrasts economic impact on one particular district as well as on the metro.SLC Indie Study

Chain restaurants recirculate a little more than 30% of their revenue in the community and metro area from which they harvest their customers, including visitors, while independent restaurants recirculate nearly 79% of their revenue in the region.

Recirculation by independent restaurants intensified to more than 83% at the district level.

For retail stores, metro recirculation dropped below 14% compared to 52% by independent stores.  The Salt Lake City analysis is one of ten or more conducted in various communities over the last decade.

Local governments, such as the city and county in Durham NC, where I live, documented to have a very high proportion of resident attachment and loyalty and passion, must be vigilant to preserve and foster unique sense of place including local, independent enterprises.

This includes being incredibly discerning when incentivizing or facilitating developments with infrastructure.

Independent businesses, and not chains, are part of the fragile fabric that not only differentiates communities for visitor-centric economic and cultural development but are shown in studies as being pivotal to drawing and retaining the talent necessary to attract start-ups and other employers to creative centers such as Durham.

It is important to consider how much leakage or retention or recirculation is involved with each type of enterprise and to use that information to inform and guide good decisions and truly optimize local economic impact.

But it all starts with residents.  People, such as me, who personally value and understand the importance of sense of place, and yet are drawn to the convenience and sheer speed of online shopping, must realize that their consumer votes may be killing the very thing they love.

The route of my recent trip was populated with remnants of communities, large and small, a few that seem to have learned this lesson and thrive and many that haven’t and are either fading away or becoming indistinguishable as places.

Click on Sustain A Bull help sustain Durham independents or click on movement, click on the Institute for Self-Reliance to learn more about this movement across the nation.

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