Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Come Home for the Holidays

It’s hard to believe it’s time to start thinking about holiday shopping, but, well it is. As you plan your gift-giving this year, we’d just like to tell you about some of the extra benefits of shopping at locally owned independent stores.

Shopping Local is a Job Creation Program. There is a lot of debate about how to create jobs in America, but an easy way for everyone to participate is to shop local. A bookstore the size of Porter Square Books employs 11.6 full time equivalent employees for every $1 million in sales. Walmart employs 5 people for every $1 million in sales. Amazon employs 1. (Institute for Local Self-Reliance) In terms of revenue and actual job creation, another study found that $1 million in revenue shifted to locally owned business would create 2.14 jobs, as compared with 1.27 jobs at chains and .39 jobs when you include online only retailers. And it doesn’t take much. A study in San Francisco found that if shoppers shifted only 10% of their buying to locally owned businesses, it would create 1,295 jobs.

And Those Jobs Usually Pay Better. Economists Stephan Goetz and David Flemin analyzed 2,953 counties, including both rural and urban places, and found that those with a larger density of small, locally owned businesses experienced greater per capita income growth between 2000 and 2007. The presence of large, non-local businesses, meanwhile, had a negative effect on incomes.

Keeping Us Here Makes Your Home More Valuable. And speaking of stimulus, a report studying 27 neighborhoods in 15 major cities found that home values in neighborhoods with thriving independent businesses outperformed their broader markets by 4 percent per year and 50 percent cumulatively over the past 14 years.

It Helps Us Give Back. A 1991 study (most recent I could find for this specific data) found that small businesses donate twice as much, per employee, to charities as large companies. Other studies have confirmed this general trend. Furthermore, because this is our home, we donate to charities in our community and work with organizations like Breakthrough Cambridge and Youk’s Kids that improve the lives of people living here.

Your Money Stays in Your Community. Because we give here and live here, more of your money stays here when you shop with us. With taxes, profits, wages, and the giving mentioned above, $45 out of every $100 you spend at a locally owned store like us, stays in the community. It funds schools and other public services, it pays the rent, it goes back into other local businesses through our own shopping. Only $13 out of $100 stays here when you shop at a national chain. Even less would stay when shopping at an online only store.

For more information about the effect of shopping local visit Civic Economics, The Institute for Local Self-Reliance, and Cambridge Local First. And a special thanks to Senior Researcher and author of The Big-Box Swindle, Stacy Mitchell for finding some of this data for me.

And on top of all the good economic stuff, you get to give someone a book. To borrow a little business-ese, I don’t think there’s a much bigger return-on-investment.

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