Encourage consumers to shop local with these top tips

Small Business Saturday is looming, and with it an opportunity for small businesses to put themselves on their local map.

The initiative, spearheaded by Labour’s Chuka Umunna but enjoying cross-party support, is based on the US equivalent – an annual event which drove £3.5 billion in sales to small businesses on 24 November last year. The UK event will occur on 7 December.

Small Business Saturday encourages small businesses of all stripes to make their presence felt, and shops look set to enjoy a particular benefit. So, as an independent retailer, how can you encourage consumers to shop locally, both on Small Business Saturday and throughout the year?

1. Consider Small Business Saturday

Small Business Saturday looks set to be a galvanising day for small businesses of all kinds. Although it is not limited to retailers, shops are likely to enjoy a particular boost. The Small Business Saturday Facebook page contains a wealth of resources to help you boost your business, and this will be added to in the run-up to the event. Last week Simply Business participated in a Google Hangout to explain Small Business Saturday, in which panellists explored some of the key ways in which the event can help. You can watch the Hangout below.

2. Underscore your independence

Small Business Saturday is at the crest of a wave of support for independent businesses. When given the choice between to comparable products or services, many consumers would prefer to spend their money at an independent. You can use this tendency to your advantage by playing up your independence. Highlight in your marketing that you are not a big multinational, but that you are a small firm contributing to the local economy. Consider ways in which you can make sure that current and potential customers are aware of your independence.

3. Get outside

All too frequently consumer-facing businesses are constrained within their premises. In order to grow your customer base you should consider getting outside. Do you have samples that you could offer on your High Street? Or could you flyer passers-by? Think about ways that you can expand your ‘real-world’ marketing activities in order to reach more consumers in your local area.

4. Join forces

Solidarity is a potent weapon for independent retailers. Although you might be in competition, it may make sense for you to team up with others in your area in order to offer discounts and deals to encourage consumers to shop independent. Get in touch with other small retailers in your area and consider whether you might be able to run joint promotions. For example, you might each offer a discount on specific products when the customer produces a receipt from one of your partner retailers.

5. Encourage loyalty

As has already been mentioned, all things being equal, consumers want to spend their money at independent retailers. You should think about ways in which you can encourage their return custom, remembering that loyalty schemes are not the preserve of big retailers. You might, for example, print up stampable cards offering a freebie or a discount on completion of a certain number of transactions. Schemes of this sort may work particularly well when you are in direct competition with a larger rival.

6. Contact your local authority

Your local authority should be one of your first ports of call when looking for support for shopping locally. Many local authorities already have initiatives in place to help independent businesses – but Small Business Saturday provides an excellent opportunity to encourage those who don’t. In last week’s SBS hangout it was revealed that at least one authority has set aside a pot of money specifically for activities around the day. Consider approaching your own authority to investigate whether they are willing to offer support.