ASTRA Survey Says Independent Retailers Saw Strong 2014 Sales Growth

astra_logo_smallLocally-owned retail stores beat the 2014 holiday performance of many national chains, according to the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association’s (ASTRA) annual post-holiday national survey of independent businesses.

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance, in partnership with the Advocates for Independent Business, surveyed 3,000 locally-owned businesses for the data. Among independent retailers, which made up roughly half of the sample, revenue increased overall by 5.1 percent in 2014, versus 2.3 percent in 2013. Holiday sales at specialty stores grew by an average of 4.8 percent, ahead of the 0.9 percent decline in December retail sales reported by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

However, nearly three-quarters of the local retailers surveyed said that online retailers not needing to collect sales tax has negatively impacted their sales. In addition, difficulty accessing credit continues to be a barrier for new and growing small businesses.

ASTRA Addresses Internet Sales Issues

Research commissioned by the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) on the implications of Internet retailing for the specialty toy industry was presented at ASTRA’s Marketplace & Academy. Stacy Mitchell, senior researcher for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, conducted the study.

Key findings showed that online toy sales have grown by 22 percent over the past year, making toys one of the fastest growing categories in online shopping, which grew 13 percent overall during the same period. It also found that shoppers are increasingly using smartphones to compare prices and check product availability while shopping in brick-and-mortar stores. It also showed that state and federal policies tilt the competitive playing field in favor of online retailers by exempting remote sellers from collecting the sales taxes that brick-and-mortar stores are required to collect.

All-in-all, the research showed that Internet retailers present a significant competitive challenge for independent brick-and-mortar stores—in many respects, a challenge that is more severe than that of big-box and other chain retailers.

ASTRA members can find a complete copy of the Internet sales white paper on ASTRA’s newly updated website at www.astratoy.org.