03 June 2020, 09:10 AM
  • Changes in consumer behaviour could continue post-lockdown
Coronavirus leads to rise in locally-conscious consumer

From ‘support small business’ stamps on Instagram to a rise in searches for local businesses on visual platform Pinterest, if there’s one positive to have come out of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s the growing support for small, local and independent businesses.

Where 2019 may have been the rise of the ‘conscious consumer’ who was becoming increasingly aware of the environmental impact of their purchases, 2020 has perhaps become more about the ‘locally conscious consumer’, who understands the impact their decisions have on small companies, in the wake of the pandemic.

Since lockdown began, a sense of community has prevailed in the UK, and it’s seen local retailers, independent brands and local food and drink producers receive vital support during unprecedented times. As in-store visitors all but ceased, revenues plummeted and many supply chains were at risk, the rise in locally-conscious shoppers gave a much-needed boost to the industry as a whole.

Scottish cider companies have certainly benefited, having witnessed their busiest period to date, with online sales skyrocketing as demand for independent products took off. British cheesemakers have also received a vital boost from small retailers, large supermarket chains like Waitrose and even through campaigns by Jamie Oliver, all of which have pushed local products into the spotlight.

Brid O’Connell, the CEO of Guaranteed Irish, also noted the rise of consumers seeking out locally produced products and produce in an effort to support Irish businesses, and encouraged farmers, producers and companies to capitalise on the new trend. It came as new research by Red C revealed that 83% of Irish consumers believe they can help the local economy by buying guaranteed Irish brands, whilst 63% said they prefer to buy guaranteed Irish brands from local businesses when shopping during the coronavirus.

British farmers have also received a boost, with many consumers putting their trust in local producers and opting to buy local meat, dairy and produce amidst the crisis.

It seems the trend is here to stay too: recent research from GlobalData has revealed that almost one in three British consumers will visit local shops more frequently post-lockdown than they did before the virus.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has reignited the importance of the local community for many, with neighbours helping each other with shopping and forming local social groups to stay connected,” Sofie Willmott, lead retail analyst at GlobalData, said. “Local retailers have played a part in this with many adjusting their services to cater for their neighbourhood, quickly introducing contactless delivery options in order to make their stock available and keep their business afloat without relying on a store.”

Another report by Paymentsense in April revealed that, whilst consumers are looking to spend less once lockdown is lifted, 62% will be staying loyal to the local businesses that continued to work to help them through lockdown. What’s more, 53% agreed they’ll support local restaurants and cafés, tooe.

With Brits looking to spend their money where it matters, it’s thought that various factors come into play for the locally conscious consumer. Some feel more of an allegiance towards local businesses, assuming large retailers and brands are better able to cope with the decline in sales. Others may take into consideration the type of produce local shops offer, which many consider to be better quality. What’s more, the behaviour of big businesses throughout the pandemic has had a part to play in steering consumers towards independents, whilst key workers at small businesses also prove to be a vital factor.

For local companies that work to build a relationship with their customers and local community, it could put them in good stead moving forward.

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