Why you should shop local this festive season

byLes Roberts on January 15th 2021

Small businesses across the UK need your help in the run up to Christmas.

Most, if not all, businesses have been hampered in some way by lockdowns and other restrictions imposed to help stop the spread of coronavirus - which makes for a pretty gloomy outlook for business owners and employees as we head into the festive season. 

What’s the problem?

2020 has been a tough year for all of us, but business owners have been hit particularly hard. A recent study from King’s Business School in London has found:

  • An estimated 6 million small businesses in the UK - supporting 16.6 million jobs -  consider themselves to be in a financially precarious position as a result of the pandemic
  • Nearly two-thirds of business owners feel their business might not survive the pandemic
  • More than half believe they’ll run out of money in the next 12 months

A separate study of 1,500 business owners from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) was equally downcast, revealing that two-thirds of business owners expect trading conditions to get worse, thanks to a combination of an “incredibly difficult” trading period in the run-up to Christmas and the end of the Brexit transition period. 

If you think this won’t affect you, then think again - there are 5.7 million SMEs across the UK, which makes up 99% of all businesses. Of these, 5.4 million are micro businesses - companies with nine employees or less - which accounts for 96% of all businesses in the UK.

This means SMEs are the backbone of the economy - driving growth, providing employment opportunities and opening up new markets. A recent study from Santander found that SMEs contributed more than half of all turnover generated by the private sector in 2018.

In short, if SMEs suffer, we all suffer. 

How are you helping by shopping locally?

If you’re still having doubts about buying from your local shops, using your local barber shops, or making the trip to any local farm shops, here are six ways that shopping locally can help you, your neighbours and your local community:

1. Help the high street and boost the local economy

Let’s start with the economy, which has taken a real battering because of the pandemic. 

The scuffed football of UK politics - it’s been kicked around parliament that much over the years - now sees its leather casing hanging on by a thread as the UK has been hit hard by the pandemic, according to figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). 

OECD's estimates forecast that the UK economy is expected to shrink by 11.2% this year, which is slightly worse than the 10.1% predicted in September.

But we can all do our bit to help - shopping at local businesses pumps money into the local economy, and by spending in your local shops, restaurants, cafés or pubs (where possible), you can do your bit to help your local area and aid the national recovery across. It might not seem like much, but it all adds up.

If you’re unsure about what your local shops have to offer, a quick Google search for ‘local shops near me’ will help, or you can use the 'Google comma' - enter into the search box the service you're looking,  then add a comma and type in your town. You'll then be given a list of relevant shops in your local area. It will also let you know if they have an online shop and offer delivery, as well showing directions and opening times.

2. Help the environment

The pandemic has brought environmental issues into sharp focus, and we can all cut our carbon footprint by shopping local. When shopping locally, we’re more likely to walk or cycle to get there, which can cut air pollution, reduce traffic and improve the quality of the nation’s high streets.

Then there’s the carbon footprint of the food itself. Local shops will often source their food locally, which helps to reduce their carbon footprint as there’s less of a distance between the producer and the plate.

It also helps to just buy fresh produce that’s in season - locally produced food tastes better, but if you can’t wait until spring and summer for your breakfast berries, stock up on autumn blackberries and blueberries now and stick them in the freezer. 

As Micky Povall, manager of Gravity Health and Fitness Club in Wirral says: "Fresh produce is the way to go!"

Inside of Gravity gym showing weight lifting machines with quote "Fresh produce is the way to go"

3. Help to stop the spread of the virus

Most local business owners have worked hard to make their shops as Covid-safe as possible, by limiting the number of customers allowed in at any one time, providing sanitisation stations and whatever other measures deemed necessary to stay open. And because they operate in a smaller space than the bigger stores and supermarkets, it’s easier to keep a cap on numbers and ensure shoppers are sanitising and wearing face coverings where necessary.

4. Help to save jobs and create more

When you buy from a local shop, you’re not helping line the pockets of a wealthy CEO of an online mega brand, you’re helping the family next door who run the local greengrocer, butcher’s shop or even the local independent gym. In turn, they’ll then spend locally and the whole area benefits.

Martin Coles-Evans, manager of Hargreaves of Buxton in Derbyshire, puts it perfectly:

Hargreaves & Son shop front with quote "Try to shop locally this Christmas. The local businesses and families we support really appreciate it"

Supporting your local shops also helps to create jobs in local communities, often giving young people their first foot on the employment ladder.

5. Help to strengthen your community

If your local shops can offer more jobs in the local area, this has the knock-on effect of creating a healthy local economy, a stronger community and, ultimately, a better place to live.

Local businesses also generate revenue to support council services such as libraries, parks and roads that benefit communities across the UK - the benefits of shopping local spread far and wide.

6. Help to say ‘thank you’

Local business owners will have struggled more than most during lockdown, especially in the first lockdown when many would have had real concerns about whether their business would even see the summer months.

Some business owners had no choice but to close, while others were fortunate enough to be able to pivot their business to provide takeaway services. Many business owners and staff worked long hours to keep things ticking over, and some local delivery services will have offered a lifeline elderly and vulnerable residents.

Using their shops now is a great way to thank them for their efforts and help ensure they can carry on trading long into 2021 and beyond. And, as Phil Walker of Heseltine's Butchers in Wirral assured us, you'll get service with a smile:

Heseltine's Butchers shop front with quote: "Shop local - you get better service, better prices, and a happy smile when you shop"

Give your favourite local business a social media shout out

Word of mouth is the best advertising there is, so why not give your favourite businesses a shout out on social media. 

As part of our efforts to help small businesses, we're encouraging business owners and customers to give a #BionicSmallBizShoutOut on Twitter,  Facebook and Instagram.  And check out what small business owners are saying about shopping local over on our YouTube channel.

Get involved and spread the word.