Shortly after launching our own busines we made a commitment to support local businesses as much as we can. This decision has had such a positive impact on our experience as consumers, in ways we didn’t expect, we’re really keen to share our experiences.
Why shop local?!
1) Excellent customer service.
Before our launch I politely complained to a large, high street store about a communications error that caused me to wait in all day for a delivery that never arrived. “Thank you for bringing that to my attention, Madam. I’ll make sure that this never happens again. Good bye!” and then she hung up. Perhaps I’m being unfair, but if it’s anything like the recent complaints I’ve had with my bank and phone providers (and many others over the years), I doubt anyone will ever think about, let alone look at, my complaint again. It will get lost in a gargantuan and perpetually seething system, and many other ladies will, I pessimistically assume, sit at home, waiting futilely for their laptop/washing machine/mattress when it’s still stacked in the warehouse.
Not so with small businesses! Small businesses are run by people who are passionate, invested and committed to what they do. They are proud of their product or service and will do all they can to make sure you are impressed. They have no big corporation to hide behind, so they consistently do their best to maintain their (personal) reputation and standards. One bad review or dissatisfied customer can have a significant impact on a small business, and so a small business owner will do her utmost to satisfy you. They also have the flexibility and agility to offer a more bespoke, personal service; responding more effectively to your individual needs, requirements and expectations and getting to know you as a customer.
2) Supporting your local economy.
Have you seen the poster that says “When you buy from a small business, you’re not helping a CEO buy a third holiday home. You’re helping a little girl get dance lessons, a little boy his team jersey, mams and dads put food on the table.”? Since we first spotted it, we’ve found it to be a really helpful way of explaining our change in habits to our children (exchanging “team jersey” for “karate lessons” in our case!) Those dance lessons, and karate classes and treats in the local pizzeria keep the money in the local economy, raising quality of life and paying our friends’ and neighbours’ wages.
Research by local authorities shows that for every £1 spent in a small or medium-sized business 63p stayed in the local economy, compared to 40p with a larger business. That’s almost a quarter of every pound being kept in your local community!
3) Building communities
Do you ever visit a city centre and look down the high street, which has exactly the same shops as every other city you’ve visited lately, and think “I could be anywhere!” And, as you venture slightly further out, you find empty store fronts appear, gaping like ugly, toothy grins? These aren’t the communities we dream of building.
Small retail businesses are suffering! It’s hard to compete with the multi-nationals, with their massive advertising budgets, marketing teams and prime locations. Small businesses are vulnerable. They’d don’t have the same reserves to weather storms, the vast reserves to make investments or the income to cover eye-watering city-centre rents.
We heard a heart breaking story from one small business owner recently, who was required by their landlord to sign up to a 10 year lease for their town-centre premises. As an independent business, this was too much of a financial commitment. As the landlord was not prepared to negotiate, and the successful and vibrant small businesses was required to close. It’s a loss to that family and also to our community. And the landlord still hasn’t found another tenant.
Think of the really pleasant communities you know. They’ll doubtlessly have a great selection of small, independent businesses that add life, interest and variety to the streets. Those businesses can only thrive if we use them! The more we use them, the more will open- so, get into your local independent stores and get shopping! Use ’em or lose ’em and get our high streets bustling again!
4) Great choice
Small businesses have interesting and quirky products that are designed with style and made with love- not just the vanilla range you can find on the high street.
Small business owners are, as a general rule, really excellent at what they do- so much so that they will willing to risk everything and rely on these skill skills or knowledge to support themselves and perhaps a family. Your local butcher, bike seller or insurance broker knows his stuff! He loves what he does and he’s excited to share it with you. That quality of service is not always available in larger companies.
5) It’s often more ethical
We’re all horrified when we hear stories of children being abused and exploited in sweat shops and we’re staggered when we hear of the impact of carbon footprints. Shopping local often means you can be more certain that employees are well treated and paid fairly. It can also reduce carbon emissions, thus having a positive impact on the environment.
6) It feel GOOD!
Now, I wouldn’t haven understood just how significant this last reason was until I experienced it. Since committing to shopping locally where we can, we have enjoyed our shopping trips much more. It’s great for building relationships- the greengrocer who asks about the children and lets them take home a piece of fruit they’ve never tried before, the Kurdish baker who gives you a naan bread for lunch rather than break your £20 note, the graphic designer who knows enough about you to create a bespoke gift even more personal than you could have imagined. There’s the man in the stamp shop who slips in a few extra postcards so the children can write to their grandparents, the continental storekeeper who gives you a box of cardamon tea because you said you liked the smell and the jewellery maker who goes to an extra effort to beautifully wrap a purchase she knows you’ve ordered as a gift.
It does the heart a great deal of good to buy from these people, and see their pleasure and joy in serving their customers. And not only does it encourage and inspire them, it pays their rent, too!
We’ve also discovered, however that the joy doesn’t stop there. We find that we enjoy our purchases a lot more, too. When I look at my chopping board, I know a little of the spark and flair that went into creating it, as I’ve met the lady, and we share similar interests. When I prepare dinner, I remember the friendly businesswoman who served me the ingredients so cheerfully. When I look at my business cards, I appreciate the support I’ve had from the printer who made them.
Supporting local and small business has had a really positive impact on our lives. Check out a small selection of the many small businesses that have impressed us this year by clicking here. We really encourage you to consider each purchase you make or service you buy and investigate if you could support a local business.
One of the joys of our job is meeting a wide range of outstanding business people. Get in touch if we could help you find the right business, not-for profit or professional insurance, or if you’d like recommendation for an excellent provider of another kind of service or product.