Despite being hurt by Amazon's rise, indies also have distinct strengths to weather the storm in the retail sector. Plus, watch Stacy Mitchell speak on Amazon at a briefing for members of Congress.
The Hometown Advantage Bulletin
Our New Infographic: The Ripple Effect When You Shop Local
Nov. 21, 2017

Image: "American dream."When you choose locally owned businesses for your shopping, you create a ripple effect. It starts with your own experience, and the benefits that you get from shopping at independent stores, like getting to rely on local retailers' expertise. Then, the effects keep going. In another ripple out, that choice also connects you with your community. It strengthens your local economy. And finally, as the circle of ripples extends out, your choice casts a vote for opportunity and the American dream.

Our new infographic, which is available to share on social media or print as a flyer, looks at what happens when you shop with a locally owned business — starting with you.  Continue Reading  
Watch ILSR's Stacy Mitchell Speak on Amazon at Briefing for Members of Congress
Dec. 1, 2017

Photo: Stacy Mitchell speaking at briefing.On Friday, ILSR's Stacy Mitchell joined members of Congress and other policy experts for a briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., "The Impact of Dominant Internet Platforms on Competition, Innovation, and Democracy." The briefing, which was held by the House Judiciary Committee Democrats and the Congressional Progressive Caucus, comes as there is increasing concern about the size and power of large tech companies, including Amazon.

Stacy spoke on the second panel at the briefing, along with Rep. Keith Ellison, Lina Khan of Open Markets Institute, and Chris Lewis of Public Knowledge.  "We're moving into a future in which we're asking businesses to operate in something that is not a market, but a private arena controlled by Amazon," Stacy noted on the panel. "There's this pervasive sense that the future is no longer ours to choose, and that is toxic to democracy.  Continue Reading
Amazon Is Hurting 90% of Independent Retailers, but Indies Also Report Distinct Strengths That Give Them an Edge Over the Chains
Nov. 27, 2017

Image: Report cover.The retail industry is experiencing significant upheaval, but almost all of the reporting on the issue has focused on national chains. In order to find out how changes in the retail landscape are affecting independent businesses, we decided to ask them.

Working with a coalition of national small business trade associations, we conducted a survey that gathered responses from over 850 independent retailers across the country. The results are illuminating — and show that shifts in retail are in fact playing out differently for independents than they are for chains.

While 90% of survey respondents report that Amazon is having a negative impact on their revenue, two-thirds report that they are responding to Amazon's growth as well as or better than competing chains are, citing distinct strengths of indies like personalized service, community involvement, and product expertise. "We do things that e-commerce can't do," explained one running retailer in Michigan. "Yes, we sell products. But most local businesses truly enjoy helping people." Continue Reading

Our Recent Events

Photo: Stacy Mitchell moderates panel at National League of Cities event.We've had a series of exciting events this fall, bringing our message about how public policy can strengthen local economies and challenge concentrated power to in-person audiences.

In November, at the National League of Cities conference, Stacy Mitchell organized and moderated a workshop featuring a panel of city leaders from Grand Rapids, Mich., Portland, Ore., and Phoenix, who talked about how they’ve made local, independent businesses a centerpiece of their economic strategy. Learn more.

Earlier that month, Stacy gave two talks in Vermont, joined at one by Olivia LaVecchia, on Amazon's "stealth invasion" of the state, and what citizens and policymakers can do to support a more diverse, equitable, and locally rooted economy. These events drew sizable audiences and extensive media coverage, including an appearance by Stacy on an hour-long call-in show on Vermont Public Radio. Check out that broadcast and other highlights from the events.

Finally, videos from presentations we gave at a conference in Portland, Me., this September are now online. See Stacy's talk on why locally owned businesses are vital for cities, and Olivia on 6 policy strategies that cities can use to strengthen them. Also, be sure to catch the excellent presentation by AnMarie Rodgers, Senior Advisor in the City of San Francisco Planning Department, on how the city implemented its formula business policy and how well it works.

News Stories We’re Following
  • Spending at local businesses has grown more than spending at big chains over the last two years, according to credit card data from Mastercard, as "Americans are seeking more personal connections and advice."
  • Locally owned craft brewers are increasingly embracing the word "independent" to talk about what sets them apart, and finding that it resonates.
  • In the aftermath of Walmart's spree buying up smaller online retailers, employees at those companies are facing deep cuts to their health benefits.
  • Thanks to a provision buried in a spending bill, Amazon could get a huge advantage in landing the $53 billion that the federal government spends on commercial goods.
  • Cities and counties in Alabama and Illinois report losing tens of millions of dollars in uncollected sales tax revenues from online sales. Meanwhile, South Carolina says that Amazon is on the hook for uncollected sales taxes totaling $500 million over five years.
  • In a must-read investigation, Bloomberg Businessweek finds that Amazon has won nine-figure public subsidies in Ohio despite creating "surprisingly few" jobs — and that the massive payout has strained public services.
  • Meanwhile, a county in North Carolina votes to move some of its economic development spending away from corporate incentives and toward small business loans and preschool education.
  • Organic farmers fear being squeezed by both Walmart and Amazon: "The bigger the buyer, the more difficult it is for farmers to set up an equitable relationship."
  • Workers in Amazon warehouses in Italy and Germany went on strike on Black Friday, calling for less grueling shifts and for the company to redistribute its profits.
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