July is Independent Retailer Month – showcasing the important role local independent retailers play in communities, along with their contribution to the local economy and to UK business as a whole.
The 2011 Portas Review examining the future of high streets outlined many benefits of independent local retailers – the connections experienced when shopping on the high street, money spent locally being reinvested locally, and the personalised service independent shops offer.
Not to mention the fact that many small independent shops in towns and villages provide a lifeline to people who don’t find it easy to travel to cities or bigger shopping centres.
The review also made 28 recommendations to boost footfall on the high street. These included councils waiving parking charges for a set time each week to encourage shoppers, supporting those setting up a business to start with a market stall for a low-cost way to try out ideas, and legislation to limit the number of empty shops.
Successful retailers such as Not On The High Street and Etsy who work with small creative businesses have done wonders to boost the profile of independent small business and the independent retail sector. They are proof of the impact that personalisation has – independent retailers can offer bespoke customer service, which in turn leads to brand loyalty.
The growing success of independent retail businesses is also reflected in official figures.
Smallbusiness.co.uk reports that despite turbulent times linked to Brexit and the economy, there is an increasing number of SMEs in retail. GS1 UK, the body that licenses barcodes, says that 84 per cent of its new members are SMEs compared with 78 per cent in 2017.
So, if you’re starting an independent retail business, it looks like you are in good company.
There is still progress to be made though. Smallbusiness.co.uk also reports that four out of 10 of the UK’s micro businesses – including small retailers – do not accept card payments. To grow on the success achieved so far, retailers need to accommodate how consumers want to deal with them.
Clearly there is much to celebrate this month, but the onus is also on you, as a consumer, to support your local small businesses.
The UK Independent Shops Directory is a good place to start. Getting into the habit of searching for your local independent retailer will mean that for every pound you spend in a local independent shop, up to 70 pence will benefit your local community. Compare this to shopping in a national chain or online, and only five pence is going to find its way back to your community.
You can also encourage others in your community to shop locally for July, and hopefully make lifelong habits. Or show your solidarity with the ‘Support for Independent Retail Campaign’ through social media – find out how here.
With the many benefits of shopping locally, this is a win-win scenario for July and beyond. Choosing local and independent could lead you to some new and exciting discoveries, and the chance to try products you hadn’t considered before… happy shopping!