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Local shopping boom expected to outlast pandemic, surveys show

Two new surveys have found that consumers plan to continue to shop locally even after the pandemic, a trend which could really benefit the UK’s small businesses

The increase in the number of people shopping at their local small businesses has been one of the few positive stories to come out of the pandemic. With restrictions encouraging people to stay at home and much of the population working from home instead of commuting into city centres, consumers are rediscovering the shops on their doorstep.

However, one of the key questions for the UK’s small businesses has been whether this will continue after the pandemic, once things have returned to normal and people are once again travelling into the office and able to shop where they please.

In other words, have people been shopping locally because they have to or because they want to?

Happily, two new surveys into post-pandemic shopping intentions indicate that the majority of UK consumers will continue to shop locally even once restrictions have been lifted and life is more or less back to normal.

In this piece, we’ll explain exactly what the surveys found in terms of people wanting to continue to shop locally, how they were conducted, summarise some of the other survey findings, and discuss what these results could mean for small businesses.


What did the surveys say about shopping locally?

Two surveys (the UPS Smart E-commerce Report 2021 and research from Barclaycard Payments entitled Lockdown Legacies) both questioned consumers about how their shopping habits were likely to change after the pandemic.

The surveys were fairly similar, with the most significant differences being that the UPS survey was conducted across Europe (but we’ll only be looking at the UK results), and the Barclaycard research also used their payments data to give more detail on what has been happening during the pandemic.

Findings

The UPS survey found that:

  • 62% of Brits were committed to shopping locally (instore and online) post-pandemic
  • 42% believe smaller retailers sell more unique and innovative products
  • 22% will buy household items such as books and furniture from independent or local retailers

The Barclaycard research revealed:

  • According to Barclaycard payments data, UK shoppers spent an extra 63.3% in February at food and drink specialist stores (such as butchers, bakeries and greengrocers), compared with the same month last year
  • Their survey data found that 91% of Brits who have been shopping locally throughout the pandemic say they will keep doing this to support smaller and independent businesses even after all restrictions end

How were the surveys conducted?

The UPS research surveyed 10,000 consumers across Europe in January 2021, including 2,000 in the UK. Participants completed the survey online.

The Barclaycard research was conducted in March 2021 and had 2,000 respondents, providing a representative sample of UK consumers by age, gender and region.


What were some of the other findings?

Online shopping boom expected to continue

Online shopping is here to stay – with the UPS survey expecting to increase by 67% post-lockdown. Similarly, the Barclaycard research found that UK consumers have been receiving an average of two extra deliveries per month since March 2020 (seven parcels now vs five before March 2020), and 47% of people expect to receive the same amount in the future, with a further 10% expecting to receive more going forward.

Ethical retailers preferred

Both surveys also found that shopping ethically is becoming more and more important. The work done by Barclaycard found that 46% of people are doing more research, and 88% plan to continue doing this after lockdown ends. The UPS survey went into more detail on this – finding that 77% of Brits say sustainability is important when choosing a retailer, and that 63% want large or well known retailers to have sustainable/environmentally friendly packaging options and 53% wanted them to have carbon offsetting for deliveries.

Brexit

The UPS survey also addressed Brexit, with 66% of respondents believing that goods and products are more expensive since the UK left the EU, and 43% feeling they have less choice of produce.

Alec Hawley
Alec Hawley

Alec is Startups’ resident expert on politics and finance. He’s provided live updates on the budget, written guides on investing and property development, and demystified topics like corporation tax, accounting software, and invoice discounting. Before joining, he worked in the media for over a decade, conducting media analysis at Kantar Media and YouGov, and writing a wide variety of freelance pieces.