New Rules Project Helps Indie Retailers Rule Main Street

Campaigning for the local guy, the little guy, and the mom and pops of Main Street has become a national movement, as the economy teeters on the brink of recovery and big box retail continues to step on independent territory. And while the U.K. has Mary Portas, the U.S. also has its fair share of advocates. Among these advocates is Stacy Mitchell, senior researcher for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and author of Big-Box Swindle. The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), with the help of Mitchell, has developed a program, the New Rules Project, to help bring fresh new policy solutions to communities and states to ensure that they are designing rules as if community matters. David Morris writes about the dilemma today’s communities face, commenting, “Some view the decline in the importance of territorial communities as an inevitable consequence of modernity: localism will naturally have diminished importance in an age of globalism. But this theory of the inevitable decline of community implies that public policy has been neutral on the issue. It has not.”  ILSR agrees and the New Rules Project has been set in motion because the old rules don’t work. They undermine local economies, subvert democracy, weaken our nation’s sense of community and ignore the costs of our decisions for future generations.

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Buy Local Campaigns a Success

Fortunately, the progress made since the launch of the program in 1998 has been tremendous. As the ILSR released in January 2011, “For the fourth year in a row, a national survey of independent businesses has found that those in communities with an active ‘buy local’ campaign have experience markedly stronger revenue growth compared to those located in areas without such a campaign.” Buy local campaigns, such as Independent Retailer Month, have spread across Main Street USA like wildfire. And as a result, participants of these campaigns noticed new customers to their business, as well as an increase in customer loyalty.

The ILSR and Mitchell are the first to emphasize why supporting locally owned businesses, such as independent retailers, is a win-win for everyone. Below are the top ten reasons, according to the website:

1)    Local Character and Prosperity: In an increasing homogenized world, communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character have an economic advantage.

2)    Community Well-being: Locally owned businesses build strong communities by sustaining vibrant town centers, linking neighbors in a web of economic and social relationships, and contributing to local causes.

3)   Local Decision-making: Local ownership ensures that important decisions are made locally by people who live in the community and who will feel the impacts of those decisions.

4)    Keeping Dollars in the Local Economy: Compared to chain stores, locally owned businesses recycle a much larger share of their revenue back into the local economy, enriching the whole community.

5)    Job and Wages: Locally owned businesses create more jobs locally and, in some sectors, provide better wages and benefits than chains do.

6)    Entrepreneurship: Entrepreneurship fuels America’s economic innovation and prosperity, and serves as a key means for families to move out of low-wage jobs and into the middle class.

7)   Public Benefits and Costs: Local stores in town centers require comparatively little infrastructure and make more efficient use of public services relative to big box stores and strip shopping malls.

8)    Environmental Sustainability: Local stores help to sustain vibrant, compact, walkable town centers, which in turn are essential to reducing sprawl, automobile use, habitat loss and air and water pollution.

9)    Competition: A marketplace of tens of thousands of small businesses is the best way to ensure innovation and low prices over the long-term.

10)  Product Diversity: A multitude of small businesses, each selecting products based, not on a national sales plan, but on their own interests and the needs of their local customers, guarantees a much broader range of product choices.

For more information:
ILSR’s New Rules Project
Mail Stop 67
1313 5th Street SE Suite #303
Minneapolis, MN 55414
Tel: (612) 276-3456