Local Businesses Return More to the Salt Lake City Economy Than Chain Retailers

Local First Utah has released a new research study by Civic Economics detailing the amount of revenue returned to the local community by locally owned, independent businesses. The analysis shows locally owned retailers return 52 percent of their revenues to the local economy.

For comparison purposes, national chain retailers return just 14 percent of revenues. That means every dollar spent at a locally owned, independent business returns almost four times more to the local economy than a dollar spent at a national chain retailer.

The study also looked at restaurants, where Salt Lake City eateries returned 79 percent of revenues to the local economy. National chain restaurants return just 30 percent, meaning a dollar spent enjoying a meal at a local restaurant means more than two and one half times as much to the local economy than a meal at a chain restaurant.

The study concluded that shifting just 10 percent of purchases from national chains to local retailers and restaurants would keep $487 million in the Utah economy – money that currently leaves the state to be spent elsewhere.

“Most of us have a natural sense that local businesses are good for communities,” said Betsy Burton, co-chair of the Local First Utah Board and owner of the Kings English Bookstore. “And studies in other parts of the country have borne this out over the past decade. Now we have hard evidence right here in our own city that consumers can have a huge impact on the local economy, just by shifting some of their purchases to local businesses.”

The Civic Economics analysis looked at detailed financial reports from 15 retailers and seven restaurateurs from Salt Lake City’s neighborhood business districts. Similar studies have been conducted in Austin, Chicago, San Francisco, Phoenix, Grand Rapids, and New Orleans.

“Every study we’ve conducted around the country has shown that shopping locally can keep at least three times more revenue in the local economy,” said Daniel Houston, partner at Civic Economics. “Salt Lake City is no exception. If anything, the ‘local effect’ may be even stronger in Utah.”

The first of its kind in the Intermountain West, the study came about as a result of the 2011 Neighborhood Business Conference. The analysis was paid for by Salt Lake City government and Local First Utah, with a matching grant from the American Booksellers Association. The on-going support of Zions Bank and Harmons also made the study possible.

“This study confirms what we’ve known for some time – that our residents have the ability to make a real difference with their purchasing decisions,” said Mayor Becker. “Our local businesses not only help define the character of our community, but embody the source of a real economic stimulus that can have an immediate, positive impact on our City’s economy.”

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