There for us when we need them: 10 reasons to keep shopping local

No plastic, no problemShot of a young woman packing a reusable shopping bag in a waste free store

Shopping locally helps the community and protects the environment.
Photograph: Hiraman/Getty Images

This year, many of us were often forced to shop closer to home. As such, we experienced first-hand the many joys of shopping locally – from discovering hidden gems on our local high streets to the priceless knowledge imparted by local shopkeepers. But the benefits of shopping closer to home can be more far-reaching than you might realise – particularly when you make a regular habit of it. Here are 10 reasons to keep shopping with local businesses …

They support local jobs
Shopping locally supports local employment. A landmark five-year research project by the CPRE (formerly known as the Campaign to Protect Rural England) – involving interviews with more than 400 local food outlets and 200 supply chain businesses in 19 locations around the UK – discovered that retail outlets selling local food supported on average one job for every £46,000 of annual turnover; the figure for three national chains was just one job per £138,000 to £144,000 of annual turnover.

Meanwhile, the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) 2020 annual report, which includes a survey of some of its 33,500 members as well as store staff and consumers, found that convenience stores alone provide 412,000 jobs around the country.

They help the local community
Ever stopped and read the community noticeboard in your local shop? According to the ACS survey, there’s one in almost half (47%) of such stores. Independent local retailers also support their neighbourhoods in other ways, with 80% taking part in some form of community activity in the past year, whether that’s funding or in-kind support for a community event, donating to a food bank or sponsoring a local sports team or community activity.

They’re better for the environment
Local stores often have a local supply chain, meaning fewer transport miles for the items we buy. In the CPRE’s study, for example, produce in many local food retailers came from within a range of only 10 to 15 miles. This local connection is important to consumers. More than half of the 1,873 shoppers interviewed for the CPRE study stated that they bought local food to support local farmers and producers, with more than one third (34%) also mentioning the lower food miles.

They provide us with strong human relationships
Local businesses develop strong roots in their communities. The ACS report found that 21% of convenience store owners have had their business for 26 years or more. However long a local shop has been trading, we can build relationships with the owners and their staff, drawing on their expertise and adding more human interaction to our transactions. In 2019, 26% of customers reported knowing the people running and working in their local store quite well, with 10% of respondents saying they knew each other very well; a further 34% did not know the staff but would make conversation with them.

A small business owner looks to camera outside her handbag shop.

Local retailers make an important contribution to the strength of high streets. Photograph: Luca Sage/Getty Images

Local merchants create a healthy and diverse high street
It might sound obvious that local retailers make an important contribution to the strength and vibrancy of local high streets. But the symbiotic relationship between high streets and small businesses can’t be overstated. Independent retailers – and other small businesses – create the sort of healthy, diverse and unique high street shoppers crave. It’s one of the reasons more than one third (34%) of small businesses are located on or next to a high street.

As part of its Where You Shop Matters campaign, Visa is partnering with Totally Locally, a grassroots initiative helping small business owners to collaborate with their peers and local communities to protect the future of independent high streets.

Together, they are working to encourage small business owners to sign up to Totally Locally’s Fiver Fest – a celebration of Britain’s fantastic small businesses and shops – and calling on consumers to spend £5 extra a week where they can to support the small businesses in their communities.

They’re increasingly bricks and clicks
More than ever, we can enjoy the convenience and flexibility of buying from local merchants online as well as in person. A survey of 1,050 small business by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), published in March 2020, found that 84% of those with a physical presence on the high street also engage customers online. Further FSB research published in May found that 16% of small business owners reported developing a new or increased online presence during the coronavirus lockdown.

They are responsive to changes
Independent local retailers can be agile and respond quickly to changes, making them a reliable source for goods – essential and otherwise. Their reaction to Covid-19 has highlighted this. When surveyed about their response to the crisis for the FSB, 57% of small firms reported carrying out community roles and 24% donated to their local food banks to help those in need. A further 30% prioritised and supported vulnerable customers, with 19% offering free home deliveries, and 10% diversified into new services.

They help the local economy
By shopping local, you are making a vital contribution to the local economy. Local food outlets provide a good example. Among those selling local food screened by the CPRE, independent butchers sold an average of 68% local food, with bakeries selling 61%, fishmongers 55%, greengrocers 39%, delicatessens 46% and wholefood stores 20%. This enhances local supply chains, providing an important market for small food producers in the area.

Moreover, money spent locally stays local for longer. According to the CPRE’s estimate, spending in local food stores recirculates in local economies to the tune of £6.75bn a year.

They are the backbone of the UK economy
The macroeconomic impact of local retailers goes beyond the local community. According to government figures, small businesses actually accounted for 52% of turnover in the private sector last year. Even when it comes to groceries – a sector dominated by large supermarket chains – the macroeconomic role of local shops is still pronounced. The 46,955 convenience stores in the UK together make up more than one fifth of the total grocery market.

They’re there for us when we need them
When the ACS analysed Google Trends data, it found that more customers searched for local shops at the start of lockdown (23-29 March) than at any other time in the previous 12 months. No doubt about it, local shops have been there for us during this challenging year. So let’s be there for them. Indeed, having experienced what they have to offer, many of us plan to carry on using them. A June 2020 YouGov poll of 1,032 British adults found that 70% of those who shopped locally during lockdown said they will continue to do so to some extent even when lockdown is fully lifted.

Shopping local isn’t just good for you, it’s good for your community. Join Visa in supporting the high street. Shop local – online, or in-store. #Whereyoushopmatters.


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