In an age of supermarkets and online shopping, how many of us have considered the importance of supporting our local independent shops? Whether it’s the local grocer, butcher, fishmonger or bakery, would you shop there if there was a good enough reason to do so?
It’s generally accepted that supermarkets have taken over from local small retailers, due to the convenience of having everything under one roof, longer opening hours and lower prices on average.
Budget supermarkets, such as Aldi and Lidl, have been taking over a bigger portion of the market share since 2017. Tesco, Sainsbury, Asda and Morrison’s are still the “big four”, but Lidl has overtaken the Co-op to become the fifth largest supermarket in the UK.
© corepics / Adobe Stock
Do people support local shops?
A study by the Association of Convenience Stores in the UK claims consumers are using local shops in some areas only because they have little choice, with no other stores available. In rural areas, where there’s only one local convenience store, 41% of shoppers use it all the time.
This figure drops to 37% for a small food shop located in the vicinity of a handful of other retail businesses. The situation is worse for a small shop located on a high street, or in a larger parade of shops, as only 10% of shoppers use it regularly.
Yet the association points out the importance of local shops to the community. They not only offer a social benefit, they also provide a personal service and high-quality, locally sourced produce, which may not be available at a supermarket.
However, on the flip side, shopping locally may not be the most efficient and convenient way of doing things, in terms of reduced opening hours and often higher prices.
As a rule, consumers like convenience and prefer a one-stop-shop solution to buy everything from food to toiletries and even clothing. The supermarket continues to reign supreme in this respect.
Some local high streets now have mini-versions of supermarkets, such as Tesco Express or Sainsbury’s Local, so for small, independent retailers, this makes the climate even more challenging, but if local grocers, butchers and other independents die out, the community will lose a great asset.
What do shoppers want?
Shoppers today expect fresh food, with its origins and ethical status clearly explained on the label, but it can be confusing to read all the different descriptions such as free range, sustainable, organic, responsibly sourced, assured standard, high welfare and more. We might start to wonder what on earth we’re actually buying.
So, what ultimately influences our decision to make a purchase? The key factors include choice, price and convenience, but will these overrule the desire to look for a higher standard of produce, of the type we might buy from a local shop?
According to a 2016 study by the Institute of Customer Service, 60% of UK shoppers like a balance of price and good service – they aren’t prepared to sacrifice the service level for a cheap product. This bodes well for local independent shops, where personal service is the norm.
In addition, 75% of customers want a consistent shopping experience of the same quality each time they shop, according to a survey by Salesforce in 2017. This is likely to be achieved by shopping locally, where the independent traders are likely to know the customers personally.
How many people have gone to the supermarket when it’s five minutes from closing time and have been reminded by over-zealous staff to make their way to the checkout? This can give the impression the employees want to get rid of the customers, so they can finish for the day. Even if this is true, it doesn’t foster good relations with customers.
It seems to boil down to the supermarkets offering a wide range of products and the convenience of shopping at just about any time, thanks to 24-hour opening. However, in terms of trust, personal service and freshness, the independents can have the edge.
What do local independents offer?
If the independents die out, the local area can lose much of its character and community feel. If a row of local shops begins to close down, the betting is that another retail giant will come along and take their place pretty quickly.
Local shops can give a town its unique, quirky feel, but they need customers’ support to stay afloat and prevent chain stores from taking over. According to statistics compiled by the Association of Convenience Stores, local independent retailers certainly care about their product and the consumers’ experience.
Many can be a focal point for their local community, with 79% of independent retailers saying they have engaged in some type of community activity during the past 12 months and 20% of them working more than 70 hours per week to ensure everything is running smoothly.
According to figures from 2017, the independent retail sector accounted for only 20% of the UK’s total grocery market. Some independents are opening longer hours to try and challenge the supermarket’s stranglehold, as the study showed some were opening up to 14 hours a day to make it handier for customers.
In addition, local shops are bringing their technology into the 21st century to make it easier for shoppers, with 71% offering contactless payment, 45% having free-to-use cash machines and 29% offering extra services, such as parcel drop-off points.
Which industry giant started small?
Some of the greatest entrepreneurs started out small as an independent retailer – including Sir Alan Sugar, whose net worth is £1.4 billion. Born in 1947, he started working in the local greengrocer’s at 6am every day, before school, to earn money.
Leaving school at 16, he had saved enough money to buy stock, such as electrical goods and car aerials. He bought a van for £50 and ran his own business selling items from the van. By the age of 21, in 1968, he founded his own company, Amstrad, selling consumer electronics and setting him on the road to becoming a billionaire.
When it comes to smaller, local shops, the message is simple – use them, or lose them. If you haven’t been to your local retail area lately, you might be pleasantly surprised at the selection of products when you take a look. Some people look forward to a local shopping trip at the weekend as a chance to socialise and see some familiar faces too.
What kind of experiences have you had with local shops and supermarkets? Do you prefer supporting local independent retailers, or are you in favour of the large chain stores? We would love to hear about your retail experiences, big or small, on Psydro’s online platform – if someone done good, we WANT to know about it. If someone didn’t do good, we NEED to know about it.
Add your voice to the debate!