The past few years saw a flurry of articles breathlessly warning of the death of retail, crediting online shopping for its demise. But this narrative isn’t entirely accurate.
Retail actually grew in 2017, with the industry seeing a net increase of 4,000 store openings and a 4.2% increase in sales. Curiously, it seems that the rise of Amazon and other e-retailers has simply coincided with (and not replaced) people’s interest in shopping at small, local businesses.
Millennials have led the trend of shopping local, with studies finding that their age group had the highest preference for supporting “responsible retailers.” This consideration of the ethics of where to shop provides a unique opportunity for local businesses to shine, since they’re more likely to adopt sustainable practices and are more dependent on the surrounding community.
Why People Like Local Business
Since 1973, Pew Research’s Confidence and Institutions study has gauged the amount of trust people have in institutions such as law enforcement, media, government, and business. In 2018, trust in big business sat at 25%, while trust in small business was at 67%.
Looking at past years’ studies, Americans have long been skeptical of big business and more trustful of their neighborhood shops, so it makes sense that consumers would eschew large retailers for local businesses.
But why now?
Facebook IQ issued a survey of over 10,000 people in the U.S., UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, and Canada to ask about their attitudes towards local businesses.
According to the study, 87% of participants cited “trust and security” as a primary motivator to shop local. Characteristics of trust and security included:
- Easily being able to return items
- Being able to test and get a feeling for an item
- Stores providing a more personal customer experience
Second to trust and security was convenience, which 85% cited. Customers said that local shops are convenient because:
- Stores are just around the corner
- Customers don’t have to wait for shipping
- Help and advice is always at hand
How Does Tucson Stack Up?
Looking at the survey data, we wondered if the motivations of Tucsonans to shop local mirrored those procured from the Facebook IQ study. So, we hit the street—Congress to be exact—and asked regular Tucsonans why they chose to shop local.
If you’re familiar with Tucson, you might not be surprised that our answers differed slightly from the survey’s:
The survey participants primarily focused on economic needs, such as easy return policies and convenient locations. In contrast, most of our Tucsonans expressed social-related reasons for shopping local.
For example, many cited supporting their own friends, family, and community. Others stated that shopping local provides personal interactions that are becoming rarer as the world becomes more fast-paced. These Tucsonans noted that their local shopping enabled them to form new friendships and help create a sense of community previously missing from their lives.
Perhaps the most enlightening answer came from one participant who said that “we’re happier” when we keep our dollars local. Even if none of the other reasons resonate with you, it’s tough to argue that a vibrant local economy leads to a happier and more tight-knit community.
As we’ve seen from over 60 years of serving the Tucson community, this city is a wonderful and unique place. Few cities exhibit the level of community that we see every day in the Old Pueblo, so it doesn’t surprise us that Tucsonans would cite supporting their friends, family, and neighbors as their main reason for keeping money local.
It fills us with pride to represent such a remarkable community as Tucson. Speaking to neighborhood folks encourages us to be the bridge that connects people to local businesses, in order to help Tucson prosper into the future.
As a local business itself, Vantage West Credit Union appreciates the relationships we have formed with our local patrons and other local businesses, whether they are locally-owned, or simply operating locally, as key employers and contributors to our local economy.