Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Indies are just plain cooler

Independant retailers shape the character of a neighbourhood. They create a sense of place. They are tourist magnets. I bet you've never heard anyone say "I've got to get to San Francisco - there's a GREAT Starbucks there!", Montreal? "That Tim Horton's on Ste. Catherine's rocks my world!"

Not gonna happen. It's the indies that make the memories.

Independant retailers are members of your community. They belong to your local school board, coach your daughters soccer team and support the local artists. They honestly care about the health of the neighbourhood as much as the health of their business.

It's time we treated them with the respect they deserve.

A 2002 case study in Austin, Texas showed that for every $100 in consumer spending at a national bookstore in Austin, Texas the local economic impact was only $13. The same amount spent at locally based bookstores yielded $45, having more than three times the economic impact.

A 2003 case study of Midcoast Maine covering several lines of goods and services validated these findings. In Maine eight locally owned businesses were surveyed. The survey found that the businesses spent 44.6 percent of their revenue within the surrounding two counties. Another 8.7 percent was spent elsewhere in the state of Maine. The four largest components of this local spending were: wages and benefits paid to local employees; goods and services purchased from other local businesses; profits that accrued to local owners and taxes paid to local and state government. All eight businesses banked locally, used local accountants, advertised in local businesses publications, purchased inventory from local manufacturers, and used local Internet service providers and repair people. The study estimated that a big box retailer returns just 14.1 percent of its revenue to the local economy, mostly in the form of payroll. The rest leaves the state, flowing to out-of-state suppliers and back to corporate headquarters.

Beyond the fact that traditional big-box retail blocks are just plain ugly, they also promote many suburban ills that creep into our urban fabric. The perpetual race-to-the-bottom that has started our local mom-and-pop shops feeling that they must purchase the same cheap, disposable Chinese sweatshop wares to stay competitive. Fighting these "category-killers" by their rules means sure defeat. Local business must retain it's local flavours, while offering quality products if they are to survive. Yes, it will involve some innovative thinking, but the evidence shows that smaller, locally-owned business' know their markets better and are quicker to adapt to a changing market.

So, let the big-butt-ugly-box retailers flame out in the peak-oil hangover that is on the distant horizon. The Walker/Provincial road Legacy Park development will cease to be a profitable enterprise when the SUV-driving unemployed autoworkers figure out that they cannot afford the gas to make it out there to purchase their 69 cent underwear in bulk. Then you will see these chain retailer's committment to Windsor as they pull up their stakes in the looming economic downturn.

I think I'll head down to Taloola Cafe for a coffee now...


E.L. said...

Walmart is the first retailer to bbreak the $1000.00 threshold for 42" flat TVs.

Topher Holt said...

Wal Mart profits greatly from keeping us sedentary, fat and isolated, so your stat doesn't surprise me at all.

Anonymous said...

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