Small businesses across a variety of industries have long felt the sting of competition from large online retailers. These retailers often aren’t restricted by geography, selling to customers across the country much like a big-box mass retailer. What’s more, large online retailers may find themselves exempt from collecting state and local sales tax, helping them beat the prices of local brick-and-mortar stores. Fortunately, for locally owned and independent bookstores, there’s a large, national organization on their side.
Based in White Plains, New York, the American Booksellers Association (ABA) represents thousands of small and independent bookstores across the U.S. and Canada. On a local level, ABA gives these member stores the materials they need to promote the idea buying local and their inventories. ABA creates marketing and advocacy tool kits for its members to use in-store and in their own advocacy efforts. On a national level, ABA gives the independent bookstore industry a unified brand and a presence in the national conversation through advocacy work and published studies.
Earlier this year, ABA released a new study in partnership with Civic Economics. The study, titled “Amazon and Empty Storefronts,” attempted to reveal the true cost of Amazon’s success to small businesses and the economy. The study found troubling statistics, including the fact that Amazon avoided paying $625 million in state and local sales tax in 2014 thanks to loopholes that exempt large online retailers from collecting such taxes. If the sales that resulted in that avoided sales tax had been made at local businesses, however, states and localities may have earned $420 million in property taxes.
Beyond the issue of sales tax fairness, ABA advocates in other ways on behalf of local bookstores – and encourages its local members to get involved. Through its nonprofit American Booksellers for Free Expression (ABFE), ABA and members work to preserve the freedom of expression dictated in the First Amendment. ABFE supports annual Banned Book Week in September and maintains the Kids’ Right to Read Project, which fights potential book bans across the country. ABA also advocates for small-business-friendly health care options and publisher relationships.
From Amazon to free speech, ABA makes sure that independent bookstores’ voices are heard. In November, ABA will spotlight indie business further with its annual Indies First on Small Business Saturday campaign. This year’s event will feature writer and producer Lena Dunham. For more information about Indies First and ABA’s other programs, visit www.bookweb.org.
Independent We Stand is dedicated to helping independent businesses across the country engage their communities and encouraging customers to buy local. If you’re a business owner, get buy local resources, tips and news by registering for a business membership. Your business will also be included in our ‘locals only’ search engine and mobile app. If you’re a consumer, take the pledge to buy local to join the movement.