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January 13, 2015

REVEALED: VALUE OF SHOPPING SMALL

Adapted from Small Business Saturday‘s press release (December 2014)


Headline findings:

  • Small shops provide £537million worth of free services to local communities annually
  • 60p in every £1 spent by independent businesses goes back into the local economy
  • People who live near small shops tend to be more sociable and are twice as likely to say hello to passers-by

New research quantifies, for the first time, the social and community value of shopping in small independent shops over and above the inherent economic benefits of job creation and recirculation of revenue back into the local area.

The research reveals that small shops across the country are providing £537million1 worth of added-value services to their customers and local communities.  Going above and beyond what might traditionally be considered good customer service, shopkeepers are providing an important social support network for local residents that equates to £3,0582 worth of time donated each year by the average small shop.

The most common examples of added value services cited by consumers and shopkeepers in the research are:

  • Checking in on elderly and vulnerable neighbours, in person as well as over the phone
  • Lending a friendly ear or giving  advice on personal matters e.g. giving parents new to an area advice about local schools, childminding services and other local amenities
  • Personally delivering products free of charge e.g. dry cleaner or cobbler dropping off clothes/ shoes once they have been cleaned/ fixed
  • Creating and sourcing bespoke products e.g. florist tracking down out of season flowers for a special occasion  or a bookshop finding an out of print title
  • Arranging and supporting local community events e.g. fairs and street parties
  • Donating time and goods to local schools, hospices and charities

Significantly, communities served by high streets with a greater proportion of independent small shops benefit the most – in fact, more than twice as much on average, with £6,998 worth of these types of added value services provided annually per shop versus £2,956 in comparable areas with fewer independents3.

Social Value In Shopping Small

Local high streets with a higher proportion of independent, small shops were also found to increase social interactions between shoppers, with people who reside in these areas more likely to say “hello” to people on their high street than those in comparable areas with fewer independents (163 times a year vs. 96).  Similarly, shoppers on independent high streets are twice as likely to have a conversation with someone they do not know (56 conversations annually compared to just 28).

A further 13 per cent of residents from areas with a higher proportion of small, independent businesses consider local shopkeepers their friends (vs. 3 per cent in other areas) and a quarter know them by their first name.  This increased familiarity translates into greater feelings of social belonging, with 64 per cent of these shoppers describing their local high street as the ‘heart of their community’ (vs. 17 per cent in other areas).

The research also points to a link between an area with a higher proportion of independent shops and feelings of wellbeing. When asked to rate their own feelings, people who live in areas with a greater proportion of small independent shops are 16 per cent more positive than those whose high street is less well represented with independents.  Specifically, living in an area that ‘feels friendly’ (59 per cent) and ‘where there are familiar faces in the local area’ (45 per cent) are considered amongst the most important in terms of generating a sense of wellbeing.

Kate Hardcastle, retail expert and supporter of Small Business Saturday, said: “We’ve long known that small businesses make a big contribution to their local economies.  What this research gives us for the first time is a sense of the extent to which independent small shops are investing in their local communities.  They are not just selling fantastic goods and services, they also play an integral and broader role supporting local people and showing real community spirit.”

The research also confirms the positive economic impact small shops have on their local community. With the average shop interviewed spending an estimated £247,500 per year on various aspects of running its business, 60 per cent of this spending is made locally, meaning that the average small shop re-circulated £148,500 back into their local economy last year alone.


For more information on Small Business Saturday visit www.smallbusinesssaturdayuk.com or to see which local, independent businesses will be part of the Shop Small promotion visit www.amexshopsmall.co.uk.

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