Today the Advocates for Independent Business and the Institute for Local Self-Reliance released the results of a national survey of 2,602 independent business owners. The survey found that the Buy Local message is boosting customer traffic and improving the outlook on Main Street, but policymakers need to do more to create a level playing field and ensure that small local businesses have an equal opportunity to compete.
Among the survey’s key findings:
Sales Growth — Independent businesses reported revenue growth of 5.3% on average in 2013. The retailers surveyed experienced a 1.4% increase in same-store holiday sales, comparable to many competing chains.
Buy Local — Over 75% of businesses located in cities with active Local First campaigns reported increased customer traffic or other benefits from these initiatives. Continue reading
On Tuesday, AIB’s member organizations participated in a collaborative webinar to share strategies for creating dynamic consumer events and campaigns that build support for independent businesses.
- Eric Levin of the Alliance for Independent Media Stores provided details about Record Store Day, which has become a global phenomenon that brings tens of thousands of people into independent record stores. “One way we’re measuring success is the volume of sales at record stores and the resurgence of vinyl sales,” Levin noted. He added that on Back to Black Friday, a spin-off of Record Store Day, many stores saw double-digit sales increases.
- Kathleen McHugh, president of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association, discussed ASTRA’s approach to Neighborhood Toy Store Day, which is held in mid-November. “The key for us is to keep it simple, allowing each store to do Neighborhood Toy Store Day in their own way,” she said. This year, dozens of popular “mommy bloggers” blogged about the event and the value of local toy stores, propelling increased traffic and sales. ASTRA helped its members capitalize on the online visibility with a suite of social media graphics. Continue reading
Rob Stott, writing in Associations Now, a magazine published by the American Society of Association Executives, covers the AIB’s founding:
Seven trade associations representing a variety of industries are launching a new coalition aimed at “bringing the conversation back to issues that matter” to small businesses.
When Advocates for Independent Business (AIB) was officially announced last month, it was essentially a formality, a logical next step for the group of seven small-business associations.
“A group of us execs have been meeting for a number of years, talking about issues that all of our members share,” said Kathleen McHugh, president of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA), one of the founding organizations. “We all banded together one year and went to Washington as an unofficial coalition of independent trade organizations. That worked out so well that we decided to formalize it and give ourselves an identity, so that when we talk to other organizations like ourselves, we would be able to explain who were are and what we’re trying to do.”
AIB—whose founding members, in addition to ASTRA, include the American Booksellers Association, American Independent Business Alliance, the Independent Running Retailers Association, National Bike Dealers Association, Professional Association of Innkeepers International, and Record Store Day—plans to focus on creating a “level playing field” for retailers of all sizes. Specifically, McHugh said, the group will push for passage of the Marketplace Fairness Act—which would require online and catalog retailers to collect sales tax—and state-by-state online sales tax laws. AIB will support better access to capital for small businesses…. Read more
In a commentary published today in Business Week, AIB co-founders Kathleen McHugh (American Specialty Toy Retailing Association) and Oren Teicher (American Booksellers Association) outline why passing internet sales tax fairness legislation is of critical importance to the nation’s small businesses. They urge the U.S. House to make this the last holiday season in which Main Street retailers have to compete with one hand tied behind their backs:
Yes, Small Business Wants Online Giants to Collect Sales Tax
by Kathleen McHugh and Oren Teicher
Business Week, Nov. 22, 2013
Main Street brick-and-mortar shops are once again heading into the crucial holiday season with one hand tied behind their backs. They’re competing with online sellers such as Amazon.com (AMZN), which doesn’t collect sales tax in more than 30 states, according to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Combined state and local sales tax rates range from 6 percent to 10 percent in most states and can top 12 percent in some cities, according to the Tax Foundation. It’s hard to compete if you have to impose this cost on customers while your online rivals do not.
In May, the Senate passed the Marketplace Fairness Act, which gives states the ability to require large out-of-state Internet retailers to collect sales tax, just as local brick-and-mortar stores must. Why hasn’t the House acted? The hesitation may be due in part to confusion about how this bill would affect small businesses. In a remarkable feat of inversion, opponents have argued in one op-ed after another that it would harm small businesses.
Seven independent business organizations have joined together to launch the Advocates for Independent Business (AIB), a new coalition dedicated to ensuring that locally owned, independent businesses succeed and thrive.
The coalition was founded by the American Booksellers Association (ABA), American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA), American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA), Independent Running Retailers Association (IRRA), National Bicycle Dealers Association (NBDA), Professional Association of Innkeepers International (PAII), and Record Store Day (RSD).
AIB will provide a structure for its member organizations to exchange information about successful programs that deliver value for their members, generate new ideas to support independent businesses, and work together to advocate for shared public policy goals. Continue reading
This week the AIB and its member organizations urged Congressional leaders to work to avoid a costly government shutdown. In a letter addressed to U.S. House and Senate leaders, the coalition outlined the impact a shutdown would have on independent businesses.
A shutdown “would severely affect consumer confidence and spending” heading into the crucial fourth quarter, the letter noted. It also alerted Congressional leaders to the impact on new and growing small businesses of an abrupt suspension of Small Business Administration loan guarantees.
This week, a coalition of 18 independent trade associations, led by the American Booksellers Association, urged the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on the Judiciary to hold a hearing on sales tax fairness. In a letter addressed to Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI), the associations wrote that a “hearing would allow for constructive dialogue that would move us on the path to leveling the playing field for small businesses.”
In early May, the U.S. Senate passed a sales tax fairness bill, the Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013, by a wide margin. The bill has faced a tougher battle in the House and has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.
Opponents have tried to paint the bill as an effort by large retailers to hurt small businesses. The joint letter refutes this notion: “Opponents of sales tax fairness are asserting that it is being advocated by large chain retailers that want, in their words, ‘to crush’ small businesses with burdensome tax regulations. This argument could not be further from the truth. Our coalition of independent associations has been advocating on behalf of sales tax fairness since 1999. Small business owners were the first to feel the effects of this unlevel playing field, but, as e-commerce has grown, it is telling that it now affects retailers of all size.”