Small is beautiful. Why independent retailers are so popular

19 January 2016

2 min read

Across Britain consumers are increasingly choosing to shop at small retailers rather than chains, helping the independents fight back against the high-street giants.

Small is beautiful. Why independent retailers are so popular (Desktop)

New research shows that one in five consumers were doing more of their shopping with independent shops in 2015 than the previous year, and 13% of British adults actively seek out these indie retailers over corporate brands.

Young people are especially discerning in their shopping habits, with one in three of the 18-24 age group choosing indies over chains. While their spending power might still be limited, once this generation hits its thirties and peak earnings this could spell a financial windfall for smaller retailers.

The study, conducted by the Leadership Factor on behalf of the delivery company myHermes, polled 2,000 adults across the UK.

After years in decline, the independent retail sector is undergoing a renaissance. About 55% of UK consumers shop with independent retailers once a week or more frequently, and 8% use indie outlets every day, the research found. The findings tally with the decline of the nation’s supermarkets in recent years.

The major high-street names have posted successive quarters of flat growth, and even falling sales, mainly as a result of the popularity of discounters but also because of a totally different phenomenon. The rise of the “little and often” shopping trend has helped to drive more consumers to local shops than in previous years. The big weekly supermarket shop has almost disappeared.

Independents still have an absolutely tiny slice of the grocery market, according to Kantar Worldpanel. Combined, these shops represent just 1.9% market share, compared with Tesco’s massive hold on grocery spend – more than 28%.

Online sites such as Etsy, Notonthehighstreet and other platforms selling wares from small retailers are helping to lure shoppers away from the giants. About a third of Brits are buying from online independent stores.

Amazon, which was always the enemy of small e-commerce companies, has now become a channel for them to reach consumers through its Marketplace.

However, a majority of Brits still like to visit physical stores, and almost half of the people polled said they would be more likely to frequent an independent shop if it were near their home.

Shopping habits differ from city to city, and Birmingham seems like the best place for smaller retailers to set up shop; 61% of its citizens shop with an independent once a week or more frequently. This compares with 58% in Newcastle and 57% in London and Glasgow.

Londoners are the most likely to actively seek out independents over chains, with 19% of shoppers in the capital saying they would choose a small shop over a big brand.

Indie retailers are popular because they offer better customer service, better quality and are easy to find online, according to this study.

Joanne Morley, of myHermes, says: “Not only do we shop with independent retailers more than we did a year ago, but many of us are actively looking to support independent retailers over the retail giants.”

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