Andrew Grill, British futurist and collaborator on the new study.
Chloe Shakesby

"Brits want to prioritise small businesses": Study reveals more than 50% of adults aim to shop locally post-pandemic

A new study has suggested that more than half of all Brits are making an effort to shop at small businesses in the aftermath of the pandemic.

The study, by Vistaprint and British futurist Andrew Grill, was made up of 2,000 adults across the country, with 51 per cent saying that they’re aiming to shop with small and local businesses as opposed to nationwide chains.

Bdaily spoke with Andrew about the study’s findings and how the landscape of British retail could change over the next five years.

To start off with, can you tell us a bit about the stats?

I’ve been working with Vistaprint, the leading marketing and design partner to small businesses to look at what the future holds for small businesses across the country.

As part of this, Vistaprint commissioned a survey which looked at the spending of Brits across the country during lockdown, and how their shopping habits will be changing for the future.

The research revealed that over a third of the public shopped more at small businesses during lockdown, and that over a third of Brits want to continue shopping small as life looks to return to normality, after the lockdowns.

Moreover, half of Brits (51 per cent) would rather spend their money with a small business than a large national firm, and 63 percent want to help the local economy. Over half of Brits (53 per cent) also want to help small independent firms recover from Covid and Brexit.

The research also reinforced that the Gen Z and millennial generations are at the forefront of this change, with around half of 18-24 year olds looking to support smaller businesses more after the restriction easing, along with around 43 per cent of 25-34 year olds.

How has the pandemic affected consumers’ outlooks on where they shop?

The survey showed that consumers are more likely to support small businesses, even if they have to pay more.

Vistaprint’s report confirmed that they are more likely to stay local, as they believe local shops are essential for their community and they are prepared to put their money where their mouth is.

As such, we can expect a shift in consumers’ outlook to favour local and shopping small over national chain options.

What are the biggest trends that this data reveals?

The research demonstrates that more than a third of shoppers vow to support independent retailers now, more than ever before, following the pandemic.

Importantly, Brits want to prioritise small businesses and independents over bigger retail chains.

83 per cent of those living in London plan to try and support businesses and coffee shops and cafes on their commute or near their workplace rather than buy from a large chain.

67 per cent of Brits said that the last year has shown them how important small businesses are to society and millennials are most likely to encourage others to shop local.

Interestingly, most Brits estimate that they will spend up to £25 per month in a small business in the next six months.

The top three most popular independent businesses for Brits over the last 12 months were found to be butchers (37 per cent), followed by bakeries (36 per cent) and coffee shops (32 per cent).

How will this change what the high street looks like?

The changes in working and travelling patterns during the pandemic provide an opportunity for local and independent shops to better tailor their offerings to regular and loyal customers.

The survey showed that on average, 37 per cent of Brits plan to work from home, with London leading this trend with 63 per cent saying they are likely to work from home going forward.

The resulting increase in footfall during the middle of the day in local areas instead of being in large cities may lead to increased opportunities; local shops may take over some of the functions of larger chains.

With the focus on local retail, the high street could return to a more traditional mix of local, independent shops rather than national chains as Brits continue to embrace shopping small. We should also expect the rise of click and collect for local, independent stores.

Better use of data, analytics and apps is likely to help small businesses better plan their expansion and significantly grow their physical and digital offerings.

What’s the significance of the rise of small businesses?

With an increased local focus, driven by more people working at home, we can expect to see a more specialised and personalised level of service provided.

Localised and more personal options will become essential to allow small businesses to compete on a more even footing with their national counterparts, as consumers will expect to deal with their local businesses in a more digital way. Seeking support from a marketing and design partner, such as Vistaprint, will allow small business owners to build a strong online and offline presence and set themselves apart from the crowd.

The role of personalisation will be driven by smarter digital offerings to ensure consumer preferences are better understood and a more relevant range of products and services are delivered.

The survey highlighted that younger people are discovering the benefits of shopping local, and this will lead the local revival, as those millennials, Gen Z and soon Gen Alpha will experience the benefits of shopping local and will in turn, tell their friends via social media in ways not seen before.

How can businesses adapt to the new trends emerging?

Local businesses will need to adapt to provide the levels of service that consumers expect from their larger counterparts, such as click and collect, a robust digital presence and online payment options.

Looking at several core small business industries in the UK, there are some key ways to be prepared.

Augmented and virtual reality technologies will be deemed another “wearable” device for the fitness industry and be used to deliver personal coaching sessions anywhere, on-demand. Businesses that invest in trialling this technology will be well-placed to take advantage of this trend.

The Home Improvement industry will embrace 3D printing and provide “print-on-demand” services for hard-to-source parts. Investment in this technology now will pay early dividends.

The wellness industry will embrace “digital pills” that will provide real-time “Health MOTs”, while voice assistants such as Alex and Siri will listen to our speech patterns and look for signs of stress or discomfort.

Local cafes and restaurants could deliver a better customer experience while reducing costs by embracing robotics and automation to handle more routine tasks.

Overall, small businesses that are more “digitally curious” and prepare for these trends now with small investments, pilots and “beta programmes” with loyal customers will be well placed for the future.

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