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Why #ShopLocal has to be part of our COVID-19 recovery plan

Written by MS
21/09/2020 12:00:56

Lockdown has meant, for many of us, an increase in the use of online shopping and delivery services - most commonly Amazon. Convenience has been key over the last six months as many high street shops were forced to shut and our local supermarkets began to run low on key products such as flour, tinned tomatoes and toilet roll (thankfully, there was always enough beer and wine!). 

That’s where online companies have an advantage over the supermarkets: their supply chain is already tailored toward providing a service that doesn’t require one to leave their home. As stores such as Marks and Spencers do not have such a profound online presence and capacity to complete a large number of orders, in comparison to Asos or Amazon, their overall business was bound to fall when consumers became warier of leaving their homes, and were eventually told to stay home altogether. 

Now, the decline of the high street is by no means a new phenomenon brought about by the pandemic, it has been a hotly contested topic in the public sphere for years. High street clothing brands are losing out to online fast-fashion brands such as Boohoo and your local DIY shop is being replaced by the next day delivery services offered by Amazon. It goes without saying, then, that lockdown has only exasperated this issue. 

But, like all things in the age of COVID-19, the story is not that simple. Yes, high street footfall plummeted due to lockdown and is a long way from recovering, but local services have also played a major role in providing for communities since March. For instance, the butchers on my local parade of shops has never been so busy - particularly around events such as VE Day back in May. 

What’s more is, the lockdown has been particularly lucrative for local takeaways who have been able to outperform national chains with their own socially distanced pick-up or delivery services. This is, of course, thanks to the advent of apps and courier services such as Deliveroo and Uber Eats but it is nonetheless beneficial for our local high streets. 

So if the overall picture isn’t so black and white after all, what can we learn about consumer habits and how they changed over lockdown? 

In this blog, we are going to talk all things #ShopLocal, consumer habits, and highlight why some sectors of business are performing better than others. We are also going to lay out some of the key reasons you should be making a visit to your local high street now the restrictions have been lessened. 

Why certain high streets stores have seen a revival 

We’ve already mentioned in brief that while clothing and home decor venues on the high street have seen a continual decline in footfall for years, stores such as local butchers and greengrocers have actually been able to bounce back somewhat as a result of the pandemic. There are three main reasons for this. 
  • Breakdown in the supply chain:
As demand increased and panic-buying became the norm back in March of this year, there was a complete schism forming within our major supply chains. National supermarkets were unable to continually stock and restock essentials such as flour, eggs and dried pasta. If you get your food shopping delivered, you will still be noticing an increase in the number of substitutes or missing items you are receiving as we continue to feel the impact of this extra strain on the supply chain. 

While one could turn to Amazon for some products - particularly electronics and other such goods - fresh produce such as fruit and veg and eggs are not available. Thus, more and more people headed to their local parade of shops in search of what they could not find in the big supermarket. Eggs, yeast and flour - key ingredients for our new favourite lockdown activity, baking - could all be found in corner shops and greengrocers within walking distance from your home. 
  • Fear:
COVID-19 can be optimised by two words: ‘fear’ and ‘uncertainty’. Since February (perhaps earlier) we have all become culturally aware of how the disease can spread rapidly with ease and, as social distancing measures were introduced, this concern was reinforced. Naturally, shoppers become more anxious as a result and so tended to drift to locations with fewer people. 

Even with social distancing measures in place, major supermarket locations can still welcome dozens of customers at any one time while your local convenience store might be limited to as little as two people at once. Such limitations simply benefit those who are anxious about larger gatherings and so they are likely to drift toward their local parade over Morrisons. 
  • Changing views of what essential:
This links back to point one somewhat as panic-buying does demonstrate what items we deem to be essential. Whether to buy green or black olives this week was no longer our main concern when we couldn’t get hold of enough eggs to make an omelette. And who needs hummus if you don’t have any pitta bread with which to have it? Don’t get me started on iced lattes… 

These so-called ‘luxury’ items, which you are less likely to find in a small scale store, were no longer on our shopping lists so we had no need to spend time in the Sainsbury’s spice aisle looking for the right brand of extra virgin olive oil when we could just go around the corner for some bread and milk. 

That explains why we turned to local stores during lockdown but why should we keep this trend up now restrictions have lifted? 

Why you should choose to #ShopLocal 

#ShopLocal is a campaign that has been kicking about for a little while, but this year it has really been something championed by the central government - you only need to think about the Eat Out to Help Out scheme in August to see how much they were trying to drive up local economies. 

We are not quite home and dry yet, however. Yes, restrictions have been lifted and the supply is generally back to normal - tinned tomatoes have returned to Asda’s shelves - but footfall and overall consumer spending continues to be down on previous years. Cases are also on the rise again and so we can likely expect further restrictions to be reinstated, making it even harder for shops to maintain a steady income. As result, trying to shop local should be a priority for the majority of us and here’s why:
  • Protecting the economy and jobs:
This is perhaps the most obvious example: choosing to spend your money with local businesses helps your local economy. You can play your part by helping to keep local shops, cafes, restaurants and other businesses open and so, by extension, you help keep their employees’ jobs secure. The more jobs that we can create and maintain, the quicker the economy can recover. 

Having more money available in the local community is beneficial for everyone as it allows local governments to support those in need and update local spaces, perhaps with more parks and greenery to promote wellbeing. 
  • Sustainability: 
Consumers globally are becoming more aware of the waste associated with purchasing from brands such as Asos. Recent campaigns against single-use plastics and plastic bags have also inspired more people to try and shop in environmentally friendly ways. 

Shopping locally is a great way to protect the environment. You are more likely to walk, cycle or get public transport to local shops, limiting our overall carbon emissions and keeping traffic low. You may also be able to purchase from zero-waste shops that are popping up around the country, which offer to top up containers you already own, to decrease the amount of packaging waste we produce. 
  • Persevering the community:
It is hard to foster a sense of community or togetherness if there is not central, focalised, point for local people to meet and engage with each other. The ideal location for this, of course, is the local high street or parade of shops where, while running errands, people pump into friends and can socialise. As we move toward online shopping and more of our high street shops are forced to shut their doors, they become less appealing places to be.

More information about #ShopLocal can be found on the government’s website here


So there you have it, our guide to why #ShopLocal is making a resurgence and why this is a good thing for all of us. We have a rocky few months ahead of us while we battle COVID-19 through the Winter but we shouldn’t let this hamper our spirits and commitment to supporting local businesses. 

If you are a local business owner looking for tips about how to make your store COVID-secure and increase footfall, check out our previous blog which has 7 great tips on just this! You can access it by clicking here

For anyone who is worried about the transmission of the virus, it is best to protect yourself and those around you by following guidelines, wearing face coverings and sanitising your hands. You can also install sneeze guards in your store or place of work which acts as a physical barrier between you and disease. Check out our range of social distancing screens on our website: theplasticpeople.co.uk or contact our sales team for more information: service@theplasticpeople.co.uk 

 
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