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Shop small: How best to support independent businesses at Christmas

‘Tis the season to tick off your shopping list but instead of relying on big companies, why not champion an independent retailer?

Sarah Young
Wednesday 15 December 2021 16:33 GMT
(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

With Christmas fast approaching, you are going to want to shop for presents and stocking fillers. But as with most things since the pandemic started, the way we go about our shopping this month is set to look quite different.

Although shops are still open, with omicron at the forefront of everyone’s minds, cramming onto public transport and joining queues will likely be on pause for many people, with a more low-key alternative to the festive retail rush instead.

While it can be tempting to just order everything from well-known e-commerce giants from the comfort of our sofa, after a hard year for businesses, small brands will be feeling the strain. So now is the time to show them support with your wallet.

Of course lots of people will feel the need to spend carefully after this year - but research from Visa found you don’t need to spend much to make a difference. Almost half of small business owners say that if everyone in their local community spent just £5 extra per week it would help to keep them open in the long term.

So, what is the best way to reject “fast shopping” culture and support independent businesses this Christmas? Here, we take a look at some of the best places to shop small and other ways to show your support.

Do your research and shop around

Due to the potential risks associated with visiting physical stores, you may be planning to do the bulk of our Christmas shopping online this year.

But, just because we’re buying gifts from the comfort of our own homes doesn’t mean we need to avoid small businesses.

Due to the pandemic, many small-scale companies have adapted their enterprises to enable customers to shop their goods online. 

There are a number of larger retailers that provide marketplaces for brick-and-mortar independent boutiques that are unable to start their own online ventures, including Etsy, Trouva, Not on the High Street and Wolf & Badger.

In 2020, Bookshop – a socially conscious alternative to Amazon, which allows customers to buy books online while supporting local independent booksellers – launched in the UK after experience huge success in the US. The website works by allowing independent bookshops to create their own virtual shopfront on the site, with the stores receiving the full profit margin from each sale.

Shop sooner rather than later

Turning to online retail giants such as Amazon and Asos can become default during this time of year because of their “Next Day” delivery promise. Unfortunately, many small businesses can find it hard to compete, with an unprecedented volume of orders met with a lack of Santa’s Little Helpers.

While many independent retailers are doing what they can to keep up with demand, dispatch can take a little longer than expected, so make sure you start as soon as possible on your Christmas shopping to allow extra time for your delivery to arrive before the big day.

If you’re unsure of a retailer’s cut-off times, check the FAQ section of their website or reach out on social media.

Alternatively, shop through one of the aforementioned e-commerce marketplaces, where you will get the benefit of supporting a small business and guaranteed delivery times.

Buy gift vouchers

Another way to support your favourite independent shop is to buy a gift card that someone can use when business resumes as normal. This can come in especially handy if you’re not entirely sure what to buy or the recipient is unable to use the business's service during the pandemic.  

Doing so is an immediate way to put cash into small retailers while also limiting interactions and services such as packing, shipping and delivery, which may require a person to go to work or come into contact with others unnecessarily. 

It is also a great way to show business owners how much you appreciate their work and a gesture of customer loyalty in uncertain times.

Spread the word

If you are unable to support a small business financially this year, there are other ways you can help give them a boost.

Follow independent sellers on social media and make sure to engage with their posts by sharing positive comments and liking their posts.

You can also share the business with your friends and followers on your own account, and if you see other people on social media asking for recommendations of places to shop, make sure to tag the small businesses you know.

Similarly, leaving positive reviews for businesses online can make all the difference, by giving other potential customers the reassurance they need to make a purchase.

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