Today you will find national chains repeated on every corner in every city; this is true of nearly every business imaginable, not just bookstores. But it is the independent retail businesses that are owned by your friends and neighbors, all of whom are vitally interested in the life and health of their communities. When you shop with a locally-owned business, you have an opportunity to broaden your acquaintance in the community as well as to ensure the economic and cultural health of the place where you and your family have put down roots.
On an economic level there are some key benefits to locally-owned businesses. A recent study found that spending $100 at local independent businesses creates $68 in additional local economic activity, while spending $100 at a chain produces only $43 worth of local impact. The difference was due to four factors:
Payroll: Local businesses create higher-paying jobs and spend a larger share of their revenue on local labor (29% vs. 23%), because they carried out all management functions on-site rather than at a corporate headquarters.
Procurement: The local retailers spent more than twice as much buying goods and services from other local businesses. They banked locally; hired local accountants, attorneys, designers, and other professionals; advertised in local media; and where possible ordered inventory from local firms.
Profits: Because their owners live in the area, a larger portion of the local retailers' profits stayed within the local economy.
Charitable giving: The local retailers donated to local charities and community organizations at twice the rate of national chains.
As for the social aspect of independent businesses in general and independent bookstores in particular, studies have shown that over 70% of people actually prefer to patronize local businesses. People prefer a more unique store and more personal interaction to the cookie-cutter, impersonal feel present in many large retailers. This personal interaction is a major reason we need independent bookstores. It may be hard to believe in the age of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, but there was a time when our social activity wasn’t done from a distance in front of computers. Bookstores were among the places where people gathered to exchange and debate ideas on everything from literature to politics, and still are today.
As important to readers as a lively discussion are helpful book recommendations from knowledgeable booksellers; this is knowledge that no Amazon algorithm (“people who bought this also bought…”) will ever be able to match. Few of us can afford every book that catches our eye, so finding the one that fits us is crucial. It is also a pleasant feeling in this increasingly disconnected society to see a familiar person who remembers that you like both the hard-boiled novels of Mickey Spillane and the occasional Agatha Christie. Ordering a book online may be “convenient,” but that sterile experience can never match ducking into a local bookstore on a rainy day, browsing down countless shelves of titles, usually ending up with a novel you’d never even heard of before, often based solely on the recommendation of the bookseller. It just doesn’t get any better than that.
To find out more about being a part of bringing The Last Word Bookstore to life in downtown Fort Worth, click here.