Why shoppers prefer to shop local - especially when it comes to food
- Credit: Archant
Nearly 45% of people in East Anglia are making a conscious effort to shop at local stores in a bid to support the region’s economy, new research has shown - but independents are missing a trick by not capitalising on online opportunities.
The survey, commissioned by this newspaper found that people in Suffolk and north Essex deliberately choose to spend their money with small, often family-run businesses.
However 32.3% of those people also said that a better online presence or an e-commerce shop would make them more likely to shop at SMEs more frequently in the future.
And the motivation for shopping local does not end with the economy, people also felt they were provided with a better level of service and higher quality goods at independents.
Our survey of 862 people found that a majority of people specifically go to independents for food.
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Rebecca Bishop, director and co-founder of Two Magpies, an independent bakery business with branches throughout Norfolk and Suffolk, said their human touch is what makes independents stand out against chains.
“I think it’s really important that we know our customers and they know us,” she said.
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“We know what they like, but we also know about their lives.
“Our managers can all talk really knowledgeably about the product that we’re selling. They can explain the sorts of flours and processes we use. Obviously that’s not something you’re going to get in a supermarket.
“I know people will be paying a bit more when they come to us, but they also know it’s been made locally and it’s been made with love.
“Quality is everything to us, so yes it might cost a bit more but when you take it home you will enjoy it a lot more.”
Two Magpies also sources many of its ingredients from East Anglia.
“Not only are we contributing to the local economy in terms of employment but that money is going back into the local economy,” said Ms Bishop.
“If you think about the big boys that money is just going straight out of Suffolk again.”
That is why this newspaper recently launched the Shop Local campaign.
Shop Local is a use-it-or-lose-it plea for our readers to spend their hard-earned cash with local independents and keep that cash in Suffolk.
Researcher from The Centre for Local Economic Strategies found that for every £1 spent at a local business 63p ends up back in the local economy compared to only 5p spent at a larger retailer.
But not only do these local independents keep cash in Suffolk, they can help bring shoppers onto the high street in the first place.
Mark Cordell, chief executive of OurBuryStEdmunds, said the independent stores were the towns USP .
“Bury St Edmunds has a host of fabulous independent businesses, but also has a good mix of national brands,” he said.
“We consider Bury to the premier town in the county for independents.
“The managers of the big brand stores in town are very supportive of our independent traders as they recognise they are an important draw for the town.
“We see 2021 being a bumper year for the town and independent businesses will play a key role in ensuring visitors return.
“Customer service and product knowledge is an area of considerable advantage for independents where there are a lot fewer staff and there quality levels can be achieved.
“They will have a greater knowledge of their products because the reality is they live and breath it. It’s their job 24/7.”
Professor Joshua Bamfield, director of the Norwich-based centre for Retail Research, explained further.
He said: “In the last 20 years there has been a tremendous homogenisation of the high streets in every town and city – so now they all look the same.
“And one way to make them different is to have lots of successful and progressive independent stores.
“After all, the independent stores of today are the large successful chains of five years time.
“In East Anglia, people particularly like their independents. They like buying local produce. They like buying things that are specifically different.
Mr Bamfield said independents are attractive as they offer products that you cannot find elsewhere.
“If you’re going to have a successful high street you really need independents,” he said. “But of course there will always be large chains operating there as well in order to create a sort of balance.
“The point of a chain is that it offers a well-known collection of merchandise available for sale, whereas with an independent you don’t always know what you’re going to get and that can be exciting.”