The last 12 months have changed shopping in many ways. Staying at home has helped the e-commerce industry soar - Amazon recordedi almost 200 per cent increase in profits in 2020 - however, the restrictions have also led us to the high street.
According to Retail Gazette,ii high street footfall increased by 10.5 per cent in 2020, which was marginally below the increase of 11.1 per cent in the same week last year. Researchiii has revealed that almost half the population pledged their support to local businesses when we first went into lockdown, saying they would change their shopping habits to stay local in their retail and leisure pursuits, even when things open up.
We've been told to stay near home and at the same time have needed to get out and exercise, so walking to the shops is an activity most have embraced. But the benefits go beyond this:
According to the Federation of Small Businesses,iv every £1 spent with a small or medium enterprise sees 63p stay in the local economy – 23p more than with a larger business. Thriving high streets benefit the house prices, further encouraging more people into an area.
It's more sustainable to walk to our local shops than drive to out of town shopping centres. But shopping in independents also means we are more likely to be buying produce that is in season and locally sourced. This supports the environment and UK farmers as well as being better for our health.
Local shopkeepers are entrepreneurs and in that sense, often support other local entrepreneurs through cross-selling, events and charities. By shopping with them, we are automatically supporting our neighbours. We've all seen businesses suffer, and it's natural to want to support local people rather than large faceless organisations.
Independent retailers are not operating at the behest of a head office and buying team; they can source their own stock. It means more unique products are often on offer. The prices are sometimes a little higher, but the quality and appeal more than makes up for this.
For independent retailers, the scope for growth is there once things open up; it's a case of ensuring everything is ready.
A clear plan with suppliers is needed to ensure that stock is ready for when the doors open. All stores' interior will still need to have the right layout to enable consumers to shop while safely distanced from one another. How much does this impact on sales, and is an e-commerce click and collect service an option to supplement income? Which staff are comfortable coming back to work, and what hours can they work? Will protective equipment be needed, and how much will cleaning need to be increased? Will we need more signage or training? Will we need to work with other stores and the council regarding potential queues? Is all admin up to date, are we insured for any changes to our business operations?
As we look to the future and slowly open up, things remain uncertain. But with consumers predicted to stay loyal to local, it will be imperative that independent retailers have the right advice.
You can read more about managing risk in retail here and guidance on re-organising stores ready for re-opening from the British Retail Consortium here.
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