Ted Simons: Holiday shopping season is in full roar. That means it's a busy time for retail merchants big and small, but it's always a good time to buy from local businesses. That’s according to our next guest, Kimber Lanning of Local First Arizona. Kimber, you are a local merchant.
Kimber Lanning: I am. I have had my little business for 27 years. I also have an art gallery that I have on Roosevelt Row for about 15 years.
Ted Simons: So, how is business?
Kimber Lanning: It’s great. There are lots of signs that the economy is really coming around full force. This holiday season is going to surprise some people. Have you noticed how many additional Christmas tree lights are everywhere? People have more time, more money, and are feeling more optimistic.
Ted Simons: The LED lights. You see them everywhere. I'm old school with the regular bulb but the neighbors are looking at me square. The effort to buy local first, talk about the effort in general and is it changing the way people are shopping this holiday season?
Kimber Lanning: I believe we're moving the needle. If nothing else people are shopping around and finding great deals at locally owned businesses. What we saw last year was that independent businesses that had a buy local campaign were up a couple percent from those independent businesses that didn't have a buy local campaign. When you measure year or year independent businesses are keeping up with the chain in terms of increases in overall sales. What that is tells telling us is that people are recognizing it benefits the entire community when you buy locally.
Ted Simons: Are you seeing tangible results?
Kimber Lanning: We do. The institute for self-reliance on the east coast will be doing a study of all communities across the countries that have ‘buy local’ campaigns. There are of them. You and I have known each other since there were only four. We are the largest local business coalition in North America. They look to us to help get the surveys in and measure what people think. We are seeing that people are starting to understand that three times more of their money stays in Arizona when they choose a local company.
Ted Simons: What is the best way to attract residents to local businesses?
Kimber Lanning: Well there are a lot of ways but one thing you need to be found online. Highly recommend that your business get involved with social media. There are tons of people who are looking for business deals on their smart phone. So every independent business we work with is being trained on their search engine optimization.
Ted Simons: Is that even if the businesses around the corner and down the block.
Kimber Lanning: Absolutely. There's a new sort of mode in shopping if you will where people just want to do it from home and they want to find things even if they do get out and look around they want to do their comparison shopping online.
Ted Simons: Talk about the internet in general. Some of the challenges here, this idea of show rooming which was a new phrase to me but I know exactly what people are doing, talk about it and the threat that it gives. If I were a local merchant I would be scared to death seeing people taking pictures of my merchandise.
Kimber Lanning: It speaks to the fact that people don't understand independent business. If you walk into a store and you put your child in the store stroller that's for sale and you push the child all around the store trying out the stroller, you move all the pieces, bits and parts, take the sales clerk's time and you leave to save $ online you have really disrespected that business owner. It's amazing that people think that that behavior is okay. It really shifted in the last few years. I want to share a new study done with you that showed for every $10 million you spends in independent businesses, 114 jobs are grown and sustained in this country for the same 10 million spent in a national chain store only $50. Independent store $114, chain store $50. But for Amazon, spend $10 million on Amazon, it only supports 14 jobs. Americans need to understand the more we choose convenience it's costing us a fortune, our jobs.
Ted Simons: That said, the economy in general, government incentives to the big box chains. These are factors as well I would imagine, these are challenges as well.
Kimber Lanning: They are. One of the main areas that local first Arizona focused on when we first started was leveling the playing field, allowing independent businesses to compete on a level playing field. When you start subsidizing national chain stores suddenly there's an imbalance. My little record store stink weed can compete with best buy but not if we incentivize best buy with lots and lots of money. People think you're getting a cheaper price but really that's deferred billing because we’re paying for it in another way.
Ted Simons: Is that information getting out to lawmaker, community leaders? Is it getting out to consumers?
Kimber Lanning: It is. The lawmakers have stepped in starting with the previous mayor Gordon in the city of Phoenix who said we don't want to compete with our neighboring cities like Scottsdale and Tempe, which just ratchets up the price. If you say this big box is going this side of Scottsdale road and we'll give you more if you come back to this side and this guy gives you more, everybody loses. Particularly the residents. The legislators were hearing this and there was a bill passed through the legislature a few years ago that actually gives the state the right TO WITHHOLD money from the cities that they choose to subsidize businesses.
Ted Simons: Last question, there's a study out there regarding resident passion for their community and how it equals higher GDP. Talk to us about that and what can community leaders, residents learn from that?
Kimber Lanning: This is so important. It's the foundation issue that showed connection to place as the single most leading indicator of places that had prosperity. When people truly love the place they live they are more likely to vote, to volunteer, to give charitably and more likely to have their butts in seats at a Diamondbacks game. People who are really engaged and love this community say, if we want to fix the education system we have to create an environment where people feel accountable for it. The way we do that is by connecting them to the culture of this place and the independent business plays a huge role in that. If you ask people today who live in Arizona who are still very much attracted and attached to Chicago where they came from, ask why they love Chicago so much, they will tell you because of locally owned businesses.
Ted Simons: Are independent businesses smaller, local retailers, do they understand that sometimes you have to take the extra step, maybe go the extra mile and that it's not going to be -- are they up for that challenge?
Kimber Lanning: They are. Not all of them. We're going to lose a lot of small businesses; I'll be honest with you. There's going to be a long way down before we get back up because people are choosing convenience right now because they don't understand the consequences. What I mean is shopping online. That's costing Americans a lot of jobs right now, but what I want people to understand is that independent businesses can be very strong. We have fantastic locally owned businesses. Take Hudson’s' theatres. Apples to apples, it's locally owned, family operated, giving to local charities. Their competitor is owned in Germany. You look at that and they are every bit as competitive.
Ted Simons: Happy holidays. Good luck, congratulations. Years now with that record store?
Kimber Lanning: Yes.
Ted Simons: Congratulations on that. Good to see you.
Kimber Lanning: Thank you.