Down Your High Street

The Importance of Independent Retailers for the Local Economy

What exactly is an independent retailer?

An independent retailer is privately owned and 100% responsible for their business. They are usually thought of as single-store operations and the owners are serious entrepreneurs who have built their business from scratch. The store and products they sell tend to offer a unique shopping experience that you cannot get from the larger chain stores.

Why are local independents so important to the local economy?

Independent businesses are more accountable to customers and the local community as they are the face of their business rather than a head office based somewhere else where customers are referred to. Independent shops can help to give an area a unique character, these shops often support local charities and have a genuine passion and direct control over the environmental impact of their independent businesses. Supporting independent businesses creates local jobs, preserves economic diversity and safeguards the environment.

Why is offering a different shopping experience important?

Having a choice in what you buy is very important. We are all unique individuals with our own tastes and styles, which we want to represent. Our high streets and city centres are becoming cloned, losing any form of local identity and offering uniformed goods and services. Having a vibrant independent retail sector preserves choice, style and identity whilst also encouraging individuals of the possibility of opening a store.

Essentially, you vote with your pounds to support your own local jobs and public services when you buy local first.

Money flowing around the local economy: How does this work?

Money spent at local independent shops circulates longer in the local economy, as local business people pay for all kinds of local services, spend their profits and pay taxes locally. This means more local income, wealth, and jobs.

Multiple stores have all their money sent back to their head office, so the only money flowing through the local economy is via the staff wages and most profit is kept abroad for tax reasons. With local businesses, everything stays and flows through the local economy.

American studies: What did they find?

American studies have found that local businesses re-circulate 70% more money locally than chain stores do, per square foot occupied. The San Francisco Retail Diversity Study found that just a slight shift in consumer purchasing behaviour - diverting just 10% of purchases from national chain stores to locally owned businesses - would, each year, create 1,300 new jobs in the city and yield nearly $200 million in incremental economic activity.

There is also the quality of the shopping experience to consider. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with the chain stores in every high street across the UK, it’s the mix of independent retailers that make the shopping interesting.

Back in the UK: What’s going on here?

Back in the UK, Birmingham City planning chiefs drafted in BBC2’s Mary Portas, Queen of Shops, in a bid to create a distinctive Birmingham shopping experience by attracting more independent retailers to the city centre. Recognising that people are attracted to places that are different, and that what makes them different is the alternative kinds of leisure and shopping experiences.

How do we go forward and what do you want to do?

There is overwhelming evidence that local businesses are the key to pumping up local income, wealth, jobs, and taxes. The more residents, businesses, and city officials that support locally owned businesses, the greater the economic rewards.

What can consumers do?

When shopping for everyday items - look local. From retail to food, all money spent aids the growth of your community and gives your children a place to grow up and love just like you do.