The pandemic changed the face of retail, with various restrictions and fears affecting the amount of in-person shopping available. Small, local and independent businesses were most affected, with many unable to sustain themselves through periods of closure or compete in the online space.
As a result, consumers felt a strong desire to protect their local businesses, and shopping habits started to shift in more ways than one, with almost two thirds of Brits shopping locally during the pandemic.
The evidence suggests these changes are here to stay – with nine out of 10 Brits who reported shopping locally saying they would continue after all restrictions end.
Larger brands may now be wondering what this trend means for them. Here is our advice for lessons to take from the ‘shop local and independent’ trend.
Why do people shop local?
Mastercard research showed that some reasons for shopping locally are pragmatic, the convenience of local retailers, avoiding queues or trusting reviews from people in the community.
However, the most popular reasoning people reported was wanting to help their local community bounce back from the effects of COVID-19 (49% of respondents).
Over a quarter said they were looking to build relationships with local shopkeepers, and the survey also found a surge in community values elsewhere, with 51% saying they are more likely to talk to their neighbours than they were a year ago.
Customers who shop local are also likely to shop ethically, says Chris Biggs, Global Head of Retail at Boston Consulting Group. The pressure on local businesses assisted a rise in the ‘conscious consumer’ – people who are more aware of their shopping choices and want to buy products that are sustainably and ethically made.
In 2019, a survey reported that 65% of consumers wanted to buy products from brands that advocate sustainability, but only 26% actually did. Independent retailers, who have lower volumes of orders and smaller processes, can often afford to be competitive in sustainability efforts, giving them the edge against larger brands.
What should retailers do?
The shift to shopping small has shown that consumers care more than ever about where they’re shopping, balancing concerns for community businesses with those of sustainability, ethical practices, and personal cost.
To stand out, brands should emphasise their positive role within communities and ensure their sustainability and ethical practices don’t fall behind those of competitors – of any size.
Don’t forget the pandemic has also spurred the move to online retail. Use your online identity and fast, reliable delivery to stand out, but don’t compromise on the things that matter most. More than ever, consumers are looking for brands that are driven by purpose and deliver on their sustainability promises.
The trend to shop local and independent has been growing over recent years, but the pressures of the pandemic promoted it further. With conscious consumerism at a new high, it’s more crucial than ever that your business meets and communicates its social and environmental goals.
For logistics and fulfilment that is conscious to both people and the planet, get in touch or call 01604 664 300.