LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Jan. 22, 2018) – A national survey of independent retailers finds that shifts in the retail sector are playing out differently for independents than they are for chains. The survey, which was conducted by Advocates for Independent Business (AIB), gathered data from over 850 independent retailers in 49 U.S. states. The results comes as national chains are declaring bankruptcy, malls are going dark, and e-commerce continues to grow. Headlines have started referring to a “historic tipping point” for American retail. Reporting on the issue, however, has focused almost exclusively on national chains.
The survey’s findings include:
- Two-thirds of survey respondents report that, despite their smaller size, they have been able to respond to shifts in their sector as well as or better than national chains have.
- Independent retailers identify distinct characteristics that they say give independents an advantage over chains as the retail landscape changes. Survey respondents cite four qualities as especially important: Personalized service, connection with community, product expertise, and ability to create experiences.
- 83 percent report that there have been chain store closures in their area that have left behind vacant spaces, and 17 percent describe the extent of these closures as “significant.” A majority of survey respondents — 51 percent — report that they see opportunities for independents in widespread chain store closures.
- While respondents believe that independents are better positioned to survive Amazon’s growth, 90 percent of respondents also report that Amazon is having a negative impact on their business.
The Louisville Independent Business Alliance (LIBA) will host a panel discussion titled “Surviving and Thriving in the Age of Amazon” where local independent retailers will share how they have evolved and found a niche even as national retailers have floundered. Seasoned local retailers including Ben Jones of Better Days Records, Summer Auerbach of Rainbow Blossom Natural Food Markets and Robbie Gibson of Belmar Flower Shop, as well as Sarah Rowlette of the Kentucky Retail Federation will participate in the discussion, which will be moderated by LIBA director Jennifer Rubenstein. The panel will explore issues such as show-rooming, how competition with big box retailers is changing and what independent businesses are doing differently as online shopping grows.
The panel is part of LIBA’s 3rd annual Louisville Local Business Expo held on Thursday, Jan. 25 from 1-6:00 p.m. at the Mellwood Arts Center’s Picasso Room. The Expo will showcase over 50 local and independent “Business to Business” companies, giving business purchasing decision makers the opportunity to explore local options for their needs. Admission is free with a business card, and the first 150 people to register online will receive a “Local Love” gift bag.
The event will also feature other “TED” style talks, including “From I, to They, to We: the slow train to community” (Joe Manning, 1:30pm) and “What Spends Here Stays Here: Independent Businesses and Community Development” (Derek Peebles, 2:30pm).