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Lockdown life taught many consumers the importance of their local shops – whether that’s the friendly atmosphere and personal touch of a farm shop down the road or the unique selection available from a local butcher.
While overall consumer spending fell by 36.5% in April, according to Barclaycard, food and drink specialist stores proved to be a bright spot, with off-licences, greengrocers, independent convenience stores, butchers and bakeries seeing 37.7% growth. More than half of British consumers said the pandemic made them realise how much they value their local shops, and as a result they’re planning to spend more in local retailers. Specialist shops have also begun attracting a younger demographic according to research from IGD. Nearly a quarter of 18 to 24 year olds said they had visited their local butchers, fishmongers or greengrocers in 2020, up from 20% in 2019.
“The world has gone local,” says Rosie Hawkins, chief innovation officer at Kantar. “People care about their local businesses. If we make it convenient and easy for them to shop locally, they will.” And the trend that’s set to last. A YouGov poll commissioned by trade body Co-operatives UK said eight out of 10 consumers who shopped locally during the coronavirus lockdown intended to continue to do so more often once the crisis is over.
“Most farm shops, convenience stores and local fine food retailers have done amazing business during the pandemic,” Paul Hargreaves of Cotswold Fayre says. “They have provided a vital service to local communities, enabling people to shop quickly and safely, with many going the extra mile by offering free delivery to vulnerable people in their communities.”
Hayley Waters, marketing manager at Springvale Foods, believes it is essential that farm shops and fine food retailers continue to respond to this trend in the run up to Christmas. “By offering essential Christmas lines that consumers would have previously bought in the larger supermarkets, combined with a selection of more premium giftable lines and festive treats, this will allow for customer retention and repeat business throughout the Christmas shopping period.
“If SMEs continue to respond to customer demands and bring added value to the consumer shopping experience at Christmas, we are confident that their sales will flourish,” Hayley says.
As the UK’s lockdown lifts and restrictions such as the two-metre social distancing rule ease, businesses will have to learn to navigate a new normal. “After such a challenging year, the small business community is hoping that, by the time the Christmas season comes around, we are back to something more closely resembling normality,” says Mike Cherry.
While that is impossible to guarantee, whatever happens in the months to come SMEs can be confident that they are well-placed to respond to the changing landscape with agility and innovation. So let the Christmas 2020 planning begin.