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New Research Shows Small Retailers Are Losing Ground

NEW YORK -- New data from the American Express OPEN Independent Retail Index reveals that independently owned small retailers account for 11 percent less of total retail sales than they did 20 years ago -- from 57 percent in 1990 to 46 percent in 2009.

"Small businesses are resilient, but they face headwinds in this uncertain economy," Susan Sobbott, president of American Express OPEN, said in a company news release. "If consumers commit to 'shopping small,' we can provide Main Street with an important boost at a time when they need it most."

The survey did reveal some encouraging trends for independent retailers. Among them were that independent grocery stores have kept pace with overall industry performance and have seen a modest uptick in sales during the past decade. Also, independent full-service restaurants retain robust support among dining consumers, and local bars and taverns of all kinds remain strong.

The American Express OPEN Independent Retail Index, conducted by Civic Economics, analyzes America's small businesses on a national, city and neighborhood level. It shows the benefits to communities that support local independent shops, and analyzes the economic vitality of locally owned retail businesses, dining establishments and bars over the past two decades.

The new research shows that thriving independent businesses can be key to raising real estate values. The study looked at 27 neighborhoods in 15 major U.S. cities where small businesses have thrived. Results showed home values in those neighborhoods outperformed their broader markets by 4 percent per year, or 50 percent during the past 14 years.

Among the 15 cities studied, New York City achieved the best index score with a 287. With a score of 200 equaling the 2009 national average, above-average scores were also achieved in San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Boston, Philadelphia, Miami and Los Angeles. Scoring below the average index were Seattle, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, San Diego, Minneapolis, Dallas and Phoenix.

"This research validates what we know intuitively -- that small businesses are the lifeblood of our communities," said Sobbott. "There is concrete evidence that thriving independent neighborhoods lead to higher real estate values and more local jobs."


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