Think Local First for a Stable Economy

“Buy Local Week” Is December 1st-7th, 2008

The idea of this Buy Local Week is to encourage you to shop with the many great local, independent businesses here in the Pioneer Valley. By shopping locally, the presents you buy for your friends and loved ones turn out to be gifts for your community as well.

According to the results of the Andersonville Study, when you shop with a locally owned business 58% more money stays in your local economy than when you shop at a national chain store. Secondly, local non-profit groups on average receive 350% more money from locally owned stores than from their non-local counter-parts.

The Local First movement, steadily gaining popularity in communities across North America, may turn out to be the guardian angel of independent retailers this holiday season.

Buy Local Week is December 1 – 7 this year – a year when holiday shopping at local independent retailers is even more economically vital than ever before. Communities around North America will be celebrating their local stores with events, contests, and poster campaigns.

Last year, when the US economy was just beginning to wobble, independent retailers in cities with active Local First campaigns reported much larger increases in holiday sales on average than those in cities without such campaigns. In all 50 states, many local store owners held their own and even saw sales gains as a result of joining with other independent business owners in their region to emphasize their local ownership and commitment to community.

In the last few years, local business alliances have launched Local First campaigns in dozens of communities. Independent retailers in these cities reported an average gain in sales in 2007 of about 2% over the 2006 holiday season, while those in cities without Local First campaigns saw an increase of less than 0.5%.

The Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, or BALLE, with local business networks in 65 communities in the US and Canada, including Pioneer Valley Local First, trains and supports its networks in conducting Local First campaigns. It also advances a new approach to sustainable community economic development based on local ownership of community assets such as sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, green building, zero-waste manufacturing, community capital, and independent retail, building what it calls “living economies.”

“Local, independent businesses and banks of Main Street are the economic drivers that have carried our communities for generations,” says Doug Hammond, executive director of BALLE. “They create the real wealth that sustains the places we call home.”

Another recent study drives home the potential impact of shopping at locally owned stores, whatever the season: The San Francisco Retail Diversity Study found that a slight shift in San Francisco consumer purchasing behavior – diverting just 10% of purchases from national chain stores to locally owned businesses – would, each year, create 1,300 new jobs and yield nearly $200 million in incremental economic activity.

“There is now overwhelming evidence that local businesses are the key to pumping up local income, wealth, jobs, and taxes,” says Michael Shuman, an economist who works closely with BALLE. “The more residents, businesses, and city officials support locally owned businesses, the greater the economic rewards.”

In Bellingham, Washington, residents are making significant changes in their purchasing behavior as a result of local BALLE network Sustainable Connections’ Local First program. In a survey, 58% of Bellingham residents reported that the program has made them more deliberate than they were three years ago (before the program began) about choosing local, independently owned businesses first. Dr. Pamela Jull, lead researcher on the survey for Applied Research Northwest, says, “To have nearly 3 in 5 households attributing a behavior change to this program shows an amazing impact.”

Bellingham is seeing the results in the form of enhanced economic stability in the community. Ninety-two percent of businesses involved in its Local First program say they would recommend participating in such a program to other businesses in their industry.

Pioneer Valley Local First is an all volunteer organization dedicated to promoting locally owned, independent businesses here in Western Massachusetts and to encourage local business owners to be socially, locally and environmentally responsible. We are also a founding member of BALLE. Please see our site at:

About BALLE: The Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, or BALLE, is the world’s fastest growing network of sustainable businesses committed to building local economies and transforming the community economic development field. BALLE is comprised of 65 local networks of independent businesses in a variety of locales across the US and Canada, and represents more than 20,000 entrepreneurs. For more information, visit

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