There have not been many positive effects that have arisen from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there is one: the boom in local, independent businesses across the UK.
The recent increase in patronage to independent local shops is made possible by the ability to buy services and products online – in order for a business to prosper, the internet is essential. It comes as no surprise that local shops and suppliers have changed how they operate to maintain their patronage.
Impressively, over a third of those surveyed revealed that they have been actively purchasing products and services from local suppliers
In Scotland, 1 in 7 businesses adapted themselves to survive the ongoing pandemic, according to the Federation of Small Businesses. A common way in which local businesses have evolved is introducing delivery services – such as subscription boxes of artisan products. Luckily, this has been successful.
Scotland Food and Drink conducted a survey which revealed that 70% of Scottish shoppers would prefer to eat and enjoy local produce. Impressively, over a third of those surveyed revealed that they have been actively purchasing products and services from local suppliers since the start of lockdown in March, which shows that consumers are sticking to their words. It could be argued that lockdown has brought communities closer together, as more people are keen to support others.
The trend in Scotland has been observed across the UK generally. A report by the Food Standards Agency shows that 35% of those interviewed are buying more locally. Likewise, there has been a 14% increase in the amount of people buying from local suppliers, i.e. farms, which shows a change in consumer behaviour and a decreasing dependency on the ‘middle man’ – supermarkets. It is likely that these new habits will outlast the pandemic?
At a local scale, councils are launching schemes to help support their economy. In North Yorkshire, the council launched ‘Buy Local’ in an effort to sustain the local economy. ‘Buy Local’ aims to encourage the public to shop locally by advertising businesses for free in a directory. Within the first week ‘Buy Local’ welcomed 200 businesses.
Currently, it has 750 local businesses in its directory. It has been very successful, benefitting many of the businesses linked to its directory. The Buck Inn, a pub located near Ripon, signed up to ‘Buy Local’ and gained around 100 new customers directly from the service. Similar schemes have been launched across the UK. In Kent ‘HelpKentBuyLocal’ was created 2 days into lockdown. This was extended to encompass more of the south east, now including Essex and Sussex.
Customers are more aware of what they buy in terms of sustainability and its effect on their local community
However, why are consumers changing their habits?
As a result of the pandemic, customers are more aware of what they buy in terms of sustainability and its effect on their local community. In addition, buyers are concerned about their locale and want to protect local shops from closing. This helps to create a sense of emotional solidarity, which is important during a time when we have to be physically distant.
It is hard to feel like we have control right now because of the uncertainty around the future, but one thing we can control is how we support our neighbourhood. COVID-19 has proven to us that we can depend on shorter, local supply chains to provide us with daily essentials because of the temperamental nature of imports during this volatile time.
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