July is time to celebrate indie retailers
Each July, “Independent Retailer Month” encourages consumers to shop local and celebrate independent retailers, which helps to create more sustainable communities.
Independent retailers are those that by definition have built the business without help from an established brand or franchise. There are an estimated 30.2 million small businesses in the United States, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Beyond commerce, these retailers provide employment and a sense of community.
“Independent Retailer Month” got its start in 2011. Tom Shay of Profits Plus and Kerry Bannigan of Nolcha Shows, who had separately launched promotions to advance the success of independent retailers, came together in 2011 to create the global campaign they dubbed Independent Retailer Month. Shay, in 2003, had created “National Independent Retailer Week” to show retailers how they could create celebrations for their communities, industries and own businesses. Banningan launched “Independent Retail Week” in 2009 as a week-long, city-wide shopping event in New York City, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Chicago to advance the business of more than 400 independent fashion retailers. In 2011, Bannigan and Shay began discussing how to be inclusive of everyone that had some form of recognition for independent retailing. In July 2011, “Independent Retailer Month USA” debuted.
The goal of Independent Retailer Month is to highlight the critical role small, local merchants play both socially and economically in their communities and the national economy.
According to the organization’s website, if every family in the U.S. spent an extra $10 a month at a locally owned, independent business instead of a national chain, more than $9.3 billion would be directly returned to local economies.
Independent retailers cite four characteristics of their businesses they see as an advantage over eCommerce:
n Service: Independent retailers provide better and more personalized customer service than chain stores.
n Community: Independent merchants are more intimately involved in their communities. Online retailers don’t even factor here.
n Knowledge: Independent merchants can offer first-hand experience and advice.
n Experience: Local businesses provide more unique and intimate shopping experiences than cookie-cutter chain stores.
Independent merchants also see opportunities in the evolution of the retail industry. Large store closures such as Kmart, Sears, Macy’s and others have left voids in neighborhood markets that many local merchants are seeking to fill. An Academy of International Business survey found that 51% of respondents see those voids, both in market demand and physical storefronts, as opportunities to expand their businesses.
People are encouraged to shop independent retail year-round. July is a time to celebrate the independent retailers that help build our economy and community and recognize the importance of shopping independently.
Ways to help independent retailers
The importance of shopping locally has been emphasized with increasing urgency in recent years, and is even more crucial as so many small businesses try to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here are some ways you can help independent retailers:
n Look for small businesses for any and all of your shopping needs. Chances are items sold by big box retailers also are sold by small businesses. When the options are the same or similar, purchase from a small business instead of its big box competitor.
n Readily provide recommendations of small businesses with which you have done business. Too often people are quick to complain about places that have failed them, but those same people don’t think to say kind words about companies that went above and beyond. Share great experiences on social media or through word of mouth.
n Talk to small businesses owners first if you have an issue. It’s tempting to go directly to social media to complain about something, but such complaints can have a dire impact. Always take issues to the manager or business owner first to see if a resolution can be reached. A manager may not be aware of an issue at all. Give small businesses a chance to make it right before taking things public.
n If you own a small business, rely on other small businesses to fulfill your needs. Order supplies from fellow small business owners, seek the help of local financial advisors and tax professionals and use local suppliers and delivery personnel.