Retail is Main Street

A look at the local entrepreneurs serving communities across the country

More than 98 percent of all retail companies are small businesses.

News about large retail companies might dominate the conversation about industry, but most retailers are small businesses: More than 98 percent of all retail companies employ fewer than 50 people, and 95 percent of retailers operate only one location. 

In cities and towns across the country, small business retailers are creating jobs, spurring economic growth and serving their communities and customers in new and innovative ways. In recognition of Small Business Week here in Washington, we’re spotlighting some remarkable small business owners that illustrate the leadership, ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit that make retail such a dynamic industry.  

Creating jobs and building communities 

The Small Business Administration reports that small businesses employ 47 percent of the nation’s private workforce, and retail is the third-largest small business sector. From creating jobs to supporting economic development through business organizations and “shop local” campaigns, small retailers bring a vibrancy and sense of community to neighborhoods across the United States. See how the Hip and Humble boutique has helped transform its community in Utah.  

From employing people in the community to revitalizing main streets, Senator Evan Vickers and small business owners Betsy Burton and Sheridan Mordue talk about the importance of local businesses in Utah.

Born online, growing up on Main Street 

Forget that old mindset of ecommerce killing retail — it’s all retail. NRF’s Small Business Survey data revealed that more than half of small business owners have an online presence, and a new crop of retail entrepreneurs are finding success first online, then opening their storefronts. Moorea Seal, a Seattle boutique featuring handmade and U.S.-made goods, started with a group of talented partners building an online community and then opened a physical storefront.  

Small business owner Moorea Seal describes how her business grew from online to a store in Seattle.

Retail is female 

Women are making their mark on the retail industry in all aspects of the business, from rethinking business models to driving innovation. NRF’s Small Business Survey reported that more 61 percent of all new small retail businesses were owned by women. Overall, almost half of all small business are owned by women.  

Mi Golandrina owner Cristina Lynch describes how embroidery artisans contribute one-of-a-kind clothing for the original boutique in Dallas.
Advocacy Bootcamp

Small business owners can make an impact on Capitol Hill with their stories. Learn how to be an effective advocate at NRF’s Advocacy Bootcamp, July 9-10, in Washington, D.C. Learn more.

Advocating for the industry

In an increasingly competitive environment where consumer expectations are set by tech giants, small business owners have a tough task, but their outlook is positive. NRF’s Small Business Survey found that two-thirds (67%) of small business owners believe their businesses will be better off in a year, though the threat of tariffs and other policy concerns could derail this optimism. Standing up for small business retail is an increasingly important role for retailers across the country.

Bob Jones, owner of American Sale in Chicago, describes it as his responsibility to educate Congress on how policy decisions will actually impact business owners.

Small business owners like Jones can learn more about how to be an effective retail advocate and make a difference in Washington by attending the NRF Advocacy Bootcamp, to be held in Washington, D.C., July 9-10. 

More on small business

Through the retail lens: Commitment to community and employees
Lyn36 convenience store
Small business owner Lonnie McQuirter on his convenience store’s local impact.
Read more
How to effectively communicate a face covering policy
Mask policies and enforcement in retail
Retail Gets Real episode 179: Bill Knapp of SKDKnickerbocker shares research-backed message on masks.
Read more
MahoganyBooks on the pandemic and racial justice
Ramunda, Derrick and Mahagony Young of MahoganyBooks
Retail Gets Real episode 178: Growing a business around Black literature amid a movement for racial justice.
Read more
Nextdoor CEO Sarah Friar on connecting with neighbors
Coffee food truck with staff
Retail Gets Real episode 177: Sarah Friar, CEO of Nextdoor, discusses how businesses can tap into local communities.
Read more
Retailers outline challenges for Paycheck Protection Program
Ann Cantrell, Annie’s Blue Ribbon General Store
The program has helped retailers keep workers on the payroll, but the experience can be "hectic and stressful."
Read more
Retailers’ cooperation during NRF’s Operation Open Doors shows ‘we are truly all of us in this together’
Guidelines for reopening retail stores amid Covid-19
Retailers across the country are sharing advice on how to safely reopen stores closed by the pandemic.
Read more