In a world where credit has tightened and consumer spending all but evaporated, independent businesses struggle to remain viable. Part of the problem is competing with the lower prices of national chains. "The big box stores are basing their appeal on price alone. So when times are tough, people tend to think on a shorter-term horizon and may spend $99 on a lawn mower at Wal-Mart instead of a couple hundred on one that's going to last for 20 years," says Jeff Milchen, co-founder of the American Independent Business Alliance.

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