New research commissioned by American Express has quantified the social and community value of shopping in small independent shops ahead of this year’s Small Business Saturday on 6th December.
The results showed that small shops across the country are providing £537 million worth of added-value services and going above and beyond for their customers and local communities. This equates to £3,058 worth of time donated each year by the average small shop.
The most common examples cited were checking in on elderly and vulnerable neighbours, lending a friendly ear or giving advice on personal matters, personally delivering products free of charge and creating or sourcing bespoke items. With communities served by a greater proportion of independent small shops benefitting twice as much on average – £6,998 worth of added value services provided annually per shop vs. £2,956 in comparable areas with fewer independents.
Areas with a higher proportion of independent, small shops were also found to increase social interactions between shoppers, with people in these areas twice as likely to say “hello” to people on their high street (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, having 56 conversations a year (vs. 28).
A further 13 per cent of residents from areas with a higher proportion of small businesses consider local shopkeepers their friends (vs. three per cent in other areas) and a quarter (25 per cent) 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).
According to the findings, people who live near small shops are 16 per cent more positive than those whose high street is less well represented with independents. In addition, 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 in a local community.
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.”