Supporting your local business community
By Liz Smailes, Marketing & Communications Officer at Skipton BID.
Since the lockdown started in March, 2 in 5 Brits (41%) say they have been shopping at their local, independent stores more regularly than they did before. This is according to a consumer research paper released in May this year, ‘Shopping in a coronavirus world: How retail is evolving’ by the shopping comparison website finder.com.
With over a third of Brits (36%) planning to use their local stores more often after lockdown, all indications in the study point towards a rediscovered appreciation of independent stores. The task ahead now is to build on this appreciation and make sure is it here to stay.
Recent months have highlighted just how much presence and impact small businesses have on our communities. We have experienced Skipton with closed doors across most of the local, independent shops that breathe life into our high street, ginnels and side streets.
Coffee shops, hair and nail salons, spas, craft stores, boutique clothing stores, restaurants, bars, shoe repair shops, key cutters, launderettes, art supply stores, gift shops, homeware shops, jewellers, picture framers, pet stores, and more – all closed.
As we come out of lockdown and businesses begin to open their doors again, it will be a different shopping experience from before. What hasn’t changed is the fact that shopping locally is one of the best ways to build a stronger, more prosperous community. There are many unknowns that will be revealed daily in this new reality as we experience it, but here are 10 important reasons why shopping at the local small business is not only important, it also helps to create a more vibrant and sustainable local economy.
1. Local Small Businesses Add Character
Skipton is known for it’s friendly people and whether it’s a wave, a smile or a greeting, our shop owners know their customers by name, and quickly build a rapport with new customers. Every small business or boutique shop adds character to our town when you walk along the pavements. Their shop windows become a selling point when branding their business, and in turn, bring an appealing visual appearance to the town centre.
By choosing to support local and independent businesses, you help maintain local diversity and distinctive culture.
2. Community Wellbeing
Since March 2020 the coronavirus lockdown period has highlighted that locally owned businesses are needed to build strong neighbourhoods. When you support a local business, you are supporting your friends, family, and neighbours. These business owners are the people that you smile at while grocery shopping, play within local community sports events, and wave at when passing in the street.
The local business that you support will help contribute to everyone’s livelihood in your community, as they in turn help improve your livelihood by offering high-quality products and services that you desire. As we come out of lockdown, it’s important that we build on that momentum of a community looking out for each other.
3. Local Small Businesses Encourages Local Entrepreneurship
Necessity is the mother of creation, so the well-known adage goes, and we’ve all become a little more resourceful in recent months. Inevitably some shops and businesses will not reopen, whether by choice or due to financial challenges. But by the same measure, new shops and new businesses will appear where there is a niche to fill. Showing support and encouraging that entrepreneurship feeds back into the community with creativity, opportunity, awareness and inspiration.
When a local small business owner becomes a success in the community, it can be the right encouragement for other people to take the plunge and also become local entrepreneurs, introducing us to a unique angle with their products and services, helping a community to continuously evolve with the times.
4. Personal Wellbeing and Environmental Sustainability
When it comes to an all round feel-good and personal wellbeing factor in a post-lockdown world, shopping local ticks all the boxes. The same study by finder.com mentioned previously also revealed that with empty shelves and lengthy queues becoming an issue at some major supermarkets, many UK consumers turned to local stores to source their food and other goods. The research found that 41% of Brits have been shopping in their local greengrocers, butchers, fishmongers and corner shops more often than usual during lockdown.
The reasons for doing so were related to personal wellbeing in a move to avoid the crowds in supermarkets and the queues outside them. Consumers also did not want to travel far, only to find items that are sold out in the supermarkets and many couldn’t book online delivery slots.
On a wider wellbeing perspective, local stores help to sustain vibrant, compact, walkable town centres-which in turn are essential to reducing sprawl, reliance on motor vehicles, habitat loss, and air and water pollution. What’s good for you, is also good for the environment
5. Strengthen the Local Economy to Promote Future Growth
Your pounds spent with locally-owned businesses have three times the impact on your community as pounds spent online or with large brand stores. When shopping locally, you simultaneously create jobs.
Business taxes contribute significantly to local town funds, which can then be used for reinvestment into neighborhoods and attract younger generations to stay or relocate into rural areas where job growth and entrepreneur opportunities are forthcoming. A small business can be a big boost in helping the economy as well as local schools, libraries, and public services.
6. Jobs and Wages
In a post-lockdown world a shrinking economy has consequently meant relocation and job opportunities elsewhere have also diminished, with no immediate signs of improving. A local business that becomes a success, however, will grow, and subsequently will open up more job positions that will be filled by local employees. Locally owned businesses provide jobs locally and, in some sectors, provide better wages and benefits than chains do.
7. Online Is Not Always Best
When a deal looks too good to be true, it usually is, and the internet is flooded with them. However, you will be surprised to see just how competitive your local shops and businesses can be on price, as well as including that all important priceless factor, customer service. The local owner also creates a stock inventory based on their own customer’s choices and what is suited to the local environment rather than national trends.
Independent companies can provide the same types of deals you see online, if not better, and you can’t beat the personal touch of a local owner who knows everyone in the neighbourhood. Building relationships between the local owner and the local customer goes further than just a purchase.
8. When Things Go Wrong
Every local community facebook page across the country is flooded with questions about repairs, quick fixes, improvements, usually attached with the ‘need it now’ sense of emergency. It’s important to know that if anything was to go wrong with an item you’ve purchased, you have a local company to go to, someone to talk face to face with.
Large commercial companies will often provide you with a phone number for their customer service team, and the long wait to annoying music begins until you get to speak to someone, and that someone most certainly doesn’t live locally. This simply is not the case with a local business. They will often prefer to meet up face to face (socially distancing, of course), rather than on the phone, and find out exactly how they can help fix the problem. And if they can’t fix it, most likely they know someone who can.
Every independent shop owner has dreams, hopes and ambitions. A marketplace of hundreds of small businesses is the best way to drive those ambitions forward and ensure innovation and low prices over the long-term. Public support keeps businesses motivated to do better, keep ahead of the game and provide the best quality product and service. When you show them support, they will be motivated to offer you the best service possible.
10. Less Packaging
We have all seen the pictures of plastic rubbish ending up in the ocean, in the woods and causing irreparable damage to our environment. When you choose to buy local, most of the items being sold have limited packaging and by bringing your own reusable bags, you’ll have less cluttering up your household too.
When the coronavirus lockdown was introduced across the nation, within a week Skipton Bid launched the #AtHomeInSkipton digital campaign to support local businesses who were offering their services and products online. As businesses begin to reopen their doors, our local residents and economy have a new chance to support each other and express a renewed sense of appreciation. Over the coming months we’ll be looking to adapt our #AtHomeInSkipton campaign to address new shopping habits that emerge and continue that support to our local businesses.