Rise in shoppers planning to stay local this year, as “support for indies has never been so important”

With the Prime Minister’s confirmation that all non-essential shops will be able to reopen across England when the nation-wide lockdown lifts on December 2nd playing like music to many a retailer’s ears amid the essential Christmas shopping period, independent toy shops are rallying the message that ‘shopping local has never been so important.’

A still self-isolating Boris Johnson made the announcement to the House of Commons via a video link yesterday afternoon, confirming that retailers who have been deemed ‘non-essential’ will be able to open their doors to Christmas shoppers in time to meet the crucial golden quarter sales. The PM stated that as the lockdown lifts, a stricter and more stringent three-tier system will be put into place across the country.

The confirmation has arrived as a note of assurance to an independent toy retail scene who had – widely speaking – felt ‘stitched up’ by the numerous loopholes that others had managed to negotiate in order to remain open under the ‘essential retail’ banner, and subsequently capitalise on the current demand for toys and games. It was a general mood that provoked the British Toy and Hobby Association to pen an open letter to Number 10 imploring Johnson to offer assurances to the trade.

Yesterday’s confirmation has been welcomed by bodies such as the British Retail Consortium and independent retailers across the country, who see the move as a silver lining as they prepare now for the all important Christmas shopping season. However, there’s no illusion that it will be an easy ride, and more than ever, they say, it is important to promote the message of #shoplocal.

Small Stuff, an award-winning, independent eco-conscious children’s lifestyle store and community space was invited on to Times Radio as Johnson made the announcement to talk about what this now means for the country’s independent retail scene.

In a tweet posted last night, the retailer stated: “Positive news that we can reopen on the 2nd Dec. We will be opening safely with plenty of measures in place. The message of #shoplocal has never been so important – support us if you can.”

A new research paper created by Visa in partnership with the Centre for Economic and Business Research, however, suggests that the mountain retailers now face this quarter, may not be quite so treacherous after all. The socio-economic paper nopw suggests that as many as four in five Brits plan to support local businesses as much, or more than, before the Covid-19 pandemic.

The research – launched alongside Visa’s Where You Shop Matters Christmas campaign (one that champions Britain’s local, independent businesses for a third consecutive year) – suggests that 54 per cent of British consumers plan to do some of their Christmas locally this year, whether that is online or in store. Three in five consumers are concerned that independent businesses will not survive if their local community does not back them through this time.

Visa and CEBR go on to state that for every £10 spent with local businesses, more than a third stays within the local area. When it comes to customer intentions this Christmas, Brits currently spend just over one fifth of their money locally, but will be willing to spend half with local independents this year.

What’s clear is that the impact of the pandemic this year has given rise to the ‘altruistic customer’, a term coined by BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson in reference to the shopper who intends to spend more with local retailers this year in show of support of the community.

At the same time, she stated, it has ‘accelerated the importance of “social purpose” of the retailer.

Speaking on the latest developments and the announcement of shops reopening on December 2nd, Dickinson said: “Shops – from high streets to retail parks – play an integral role in the run-up to Christmas.

“While retailers have stepped up their online delivery over the course of 2020, the bulk of Christmas shopping tends to be done in store. The Government’s decision to keep all of retail open will help to preserve jobs and the economy and help keep Christmas a festive occasion for everyone.”