Certainly, there are other retail realities. The existence of any business, chain or not, is often preferred over an abandoned storefront, and will better serve communities void of key supplies for everyday existence. While I happily patronize my local toy store, the reality is that big-box retailers that include a grocery section may just be the saviors for the vast "food deserts" across other parts of my home city, Chicago. There, zero grocery options, especially fresh food, exist for blocks on end.
Still, the risk of losing more independent businesses or even slowing their growth is only reenergizing the small-business community. Local and national campaigns that join efforts to raise awareness can boost results for indies.
A 2011 Independent Business Survey was conducted by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and dozens of national and local business organizations. Respondents who participated in "Buy Local" campaigns reported an average gain in revenue of 5.6 percent, compared with a 2.1 percent revenue increase for those not involved in these campaigns. The survey gathered data from 2,768 independent, locally owned businesses during an eight-day period in January. It covered all 50 states and included a range of business types.
National campaigns are also gaining some traction. Nov. 26, 2011, the Saturday immediately after Thanksgiving and Black Friday, is designated as the second-annual Small Business Saturday holiday shopping promotion. An effort called Independent We Stand joined with American Express to create the national program in 2010 in response to small business owners' most pressing need: more demand for their products and services. Last year's inaugural program drove millions of dollars to Main Street merchants, the campaign says.
"Locally owned businesses reinvest in the local economy at a 60 percent higher rate than chains and Internet retailers, so Small Business Saturday shoppers will be revitalizing their economies while finding great deals at their favorite local merchants," says Bill Brunelle, project manager of Independent We Stand, in a news release.
For Milchen and other advocates, the fight is as much about preserving quality human interaction and a sense of community as it is about the bottom line.
For more on the Independent We Stand holiday promotion and other resources for the indie shopping movement, see below:
Independent We Stand: independentwestand.org
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Nation: uschambersmallbusinessnation.com
Civic Economics' Indie City Index 2011, a ranking of American Metropolitan Areas by the proportion of retail activity captured by independents: civiceconomics.com
American Independent Business Alliance: amiba.net
Institute for Local Self-Reliance: ilsr.org
Business Alliance for Local Living Economies: livingeconomies.org