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With brand trust on shaky ground, consumers are ready to spend more at local shops to strengthen Main Street

by | May 28, 2024 | Public Relations

As e-commerce becomes riskier in an increasingly vulnerable world of e-predator sophistication, new research finds that Americans are turning more attention to small businesses in their communities and, in wanting to see their Main Streets thriving, many are willing to do their part to keep local shops in business.

New research from online marketplace Faire finds consumers reporting that they are willing to spend nearly $2,000 more with local businesses in 2024 if it means their favorite local shops will continue to thrive. 

The research uncovered that across the country:

  • Americans are personally willing to spend an extra $150 a month on average to make sure their local shops survive.
  • More than 65 percent of Americans visit their local Main Street at least a few times a month, and nearly 75 percent feel sad, worried, guilty, or angry when their local shops shut down.
  • Local shopping districts are so important that 85 percent say a candidate’s support of small businesses will influence who they decide to vote for this election year.
  • Despite the impacts of inflation and the aftermath of the pandemic in recent years, nearly 80 percent of consumers report that their Main Street is stable or growing compared to 2019.

Faire’s research, based on a survey conducted by Wakefield Research, reveals a consumer commitment to local economic growth, demonstrating that shopping local continues to be a priority across the country. This is promising news for the record-breaking new retail business openings in 2023, as they are likely to be met with enthusiastic consumer support this year. While small businesses still face several unique challenges, independent retailers have fought the headwinds by offering their customers new and creative experiences.

“We’ve always believed in the power of independent retail. These shop owners play an incredibly important role in what makes a city or town feel unique,” said Faire co-founder and CEO, Max Rhodes, in a news release. “Their superpowers of curation, agility, and community building have successfully met a growing consumer demand for connection and values-driven shopping. By leaning into these advantages, they continue to increase market share.”

Consumer priorities have changed since 2020

Not only are consumers willing to spend an extra $150 per month to support local shops, they are willing to travel up to 30 minutes to visit them. This can be attributed to an overall shift in consumer priorities and values across the country. Nearly 75 percent of Americans surveyed said the pandemic made them appreciate their local shops more than they did before. Consumers located in suburban areas have become particularly passionate about contributing to their local economies, with over 70 percent citing this contribution as the primary reason they choose to shop at local shops on their Main Street.

In a separate survey run by Faire to its customer base, independent retailers reported this growing consumer support is felt within their own shops. Nearly 85 percent stated they feel supported by their communities, and nearly 90 percent agreed that local shops receive more local support than big box stores in their neighborhoods. 

“Community is at the center of everything we do. I grew up in the very neighborhood where our shop is,” said Chandler Tang, founder and owner of post.script., a San Francisco based gift shop, in the release. “My desire to contribute and give back to my community is authentic and clear, I’m at the store almost everyday. Customers enjoy coming in and seeing a familiar face, and they want to support that.”

Millennials and Gen Z prefer to shop locally

As the largest growing consumer spending group, Gen Z’s shopping behavior and preferences continue to influence cultural trends and the broader global economy. According to Faire’s research, the smartphone generation prefers the shopping experience at independent retailers more than any other generation—so much so that they visit their local Main Street most often, with nearly 85 percent shopping there at least a few times a month and over a quarter shopping there a few times a week.

And while Gen Z and Millennials are divided on fashion, both generations are the most passionate about seeing their Main Streets thrive—with 100 percent of Gen Z and 96 percent of Millennials reporting they would take action to help their local businesses. These actions include:

  • 70 percent of Gen Z and 69 percent of Millennials are willing to shop locally more often.
  • 60 percent of Millennials and 59 percent of Gen Z are willing to encourage family and friends to support local businesses.
  • Nearly 55 percent of both generations are willing to do their holiday shopping there.
  • Both generations said their support of local commerce will influence their vote this election year, with 90 percent of Gen Z and 86 percent of Millennials stating a candidate’s plan on how to support small businesses is a priority when deciding who to vote for.

Curation and community drive independent retail’s appeal

According to Faire’s internal research, which surveyed independent retailers across the country, this small business group is capturing an increase in consumer demand by focusing on creative tactics that are uniquely powerful in a small retail setting. For example:

  • Nearly 90 percent of those retailers reported they are focused on personalized customer service and curated product selections.
  • A smaller but strong majority reported they are focused on community engagement, in-store events, and partnering with other local businesses.

“After years with limited opportunities to connect in person, small business-led experiences remind us why we love the neighborhoods we live in,” said Calli Swofford, owner of Denver-based home goods store, Miller Lane Mercantile, in the release. “At Miller Lane, we’re focused on providing highly curated, intimate, and thoughtful in-store experiences more than ever because our community continues to show up for them time and time again. Whether it’s trying a new art form, partaking in a self care demonstration, or creating something delicious, the camaraderie that forms on these occasions is a big part of what keeps our momentum going as an independent brick and mortar shop.”

This tactile, social-oriented strategy is corroborated by retailer’s purchase data—even with the majority of surveyed retailers offering omnichannel purchase options, 97 percent say in-store is still the most popular way customers make a purchase. Leaning into local connection and experiences not only drives purchase behavior but establishes loyalty to drive long-term relationships. This is reflected in how consumers shop in their stores:

  • Over 80 percent of surveyed retailers reported that customers come into their shops to socialize with their staff, ask for recommendations on products, or for help in picking out a gift.
  • Over 60 percent reported that when shopping customers request certain products or brands to be stocked, ask to place an item on hold when it comes back in stock, or ask for recommendations on other businesses to visit in the neighborhood.

The future of local economies

Small businesses have an outsized impact on the future of the American economy. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in 2023, small businesses represented nearly 44 percent of America’s GDP, which equates to trillions of dollars of economic activity each year. This success translates into a thriving workforce, as they employ nearly half of the country’s labor pool, and empower minority communities, with nearly 45 percent owned by women, and 20 percent owned by racial minorities.

“Small businesses are the fabric of our communities and the backbone of our economy. Main Streets thrive when brick-and-mortar retailers lean into their smallness to create a close-knit, supportive atmosphere for their employees, their customers, and their community,” said Tom Sullivan, vice president of small business policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in the release.

Independent retail is a uniquely important sector of the small business community—their success means thriving local economies, cities, and neighborhoods. The small businesses on Main Streets around the country create experiences that offer cultural connection and meet the increasing demand of consumers today.

The Faire Survey was conducted by Wakefield Research among 1,000 nationally representative US adults ages 18+, between March 5th and March 11th, 2024, using an email invitation and an online survey. The data has been weighted to ensure an accurate representation of nationally representative US adults ages 18+.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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