During the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, attitudes of shoppers in the UK changed significantly as they developed a considerable sense of community. Rather than visiting the big supermarket on the edge of town, residents would ‘shop local’, visiting their local corner shops and grocers, reigniting old habits. In April 2020, off-licences, greengrocers, independent convenience stores, butchers, and bakeries saw growth of 37.7 per cent.
Research conducted by SnowShock, suppliers of slush machine syrup, looked into this shifting trend that is needed not only to support local communities but reduce our impact on the environment. Here, we will delve into this increased sense of togetherness and answer whether or not we can expect “Shop Local” to continue.
Supporting your local community
This shift in trend is a result of changing attitudes and behaviours. As we tried to stay safe in lockdown by shopping at smaller stores nearby that maybe didn’t require travelling and queuing, we discovered local retailers we hadn’t previously considered and were pleased with what we found.
Mecommi is a company that delivers products from local market stalls to customer homes. Co-founder Alannah Wood commented: “One of few upsides of the pandemic is that people are more conscious of looking out for their local community and the businesses they serve. The market is very much part of this landscape.
“Shopping locally creates jobs and brings money into your local community. Shopping locally brings charm to town centres in the form of home-baked goods, quirky coffee shops, and local delicacies. Many small businesses are unable to trade during lockdown and have suffered a considerable decrease in trade as a result of the pandemic in general. Unless we use them, we’ll lose them. Perhaps even forever.”
Many people are unaware of the significant benefits that shopping locally has. Using our purchasing power to support local business helps reduce our impact on the planet we should be looking after.
Not only does shopping locally reduce our food miles, but large supermarket corporations get their stock from producers in other countries, which results in more miles travelled and more emissions emitted into the atmosphere. Shopping local prevents these food miles and also protects land from developers who are looking to buy out local farms that have much more sustainable practices.
We are at a point in the world where we need to be aware of the damage to the environment. We must be considerate in all areas of life, primarily where and how much we buy when at the shops.
A sense of togetherness
Fostering a sense of togetherness is a key driving force for the ‘shop local’ initiative. In lockdown, we craved human connectivity. It is interesting but understandable that when we are forced indoors in social isolation, we realise that people matter the most – friends, family, neighbours. The pandemic resulted in new living and working patterns, with more people interested in their local hubs and supporting businesses going through hard times. Being, thinking, and acting local creates a better sense of community well-being, which helps us to feel safe and connected in our area by getting to know those around us.
Local stores prevent waste that the large supermarkets are guilty of. Plus, local stores can be hyper-focused on the needs of their community, offering customers exactly what they want.
Will it continue?
According to The Guardian, more than nine in 10 people who were shopping locally said they will continue to do so. Over the last year, around two-thirds of consumers have shopped closer to home. We expect to see fewer people visiting large supermarkets. However, online shopping is also growing, which has had an impact on high street retailers who just can’t compete with e-commerce and fast, convenient delivery.
Tom Cheesewright, a leading future trends consultant, said: “Echoes of this pandemic will be heard long after lockdown is lifted through a sustained shift in our buying behaviours. Changes we expected to happen over a decade have been condensed into a year.”
Independent stores that are committed to meeting the needs of local communities should do well – they should invest in social media, websites, and an outstanding shop experience to draw people from online shopping.
Holly brings a wealth of experience in both print and digital publishing. As Modern Retail’s Content Editor, Holly is passionate about helping independent retailers to thrive in today’s ever-changing market.