People who live near small independent shops are HAPPIER than those near large corporate chains, research has revealed.
The study by American Express discovered that residents feel more positive – and even consider local shopkeepers their FRIENDS.
But just a fraction of those who live outside small towns and villages and have to drive to large shops feel ‘part of the community’.
The credit card giant also found that small local shops add £1/2 BILLION to the economy each year in ‘value added services’ such as checking in on elderly neighbours, dropping off goods for neighbours and listening to people’s problems.
Furthermore, economic data from the study found that 60p in every £1 spent by independent businesses goes back into the local community.
American Express did the research for Small Business Saturday which takes place on December 6.
Kate Hardcastle, retail expert and supporter of Small Business Saturday, said: ‘We’ve long known that small businesses make a big contribution to their local economies.
‘What this research gives us for the first time is a sense of the extent to which independent small shops are investing in their local communities. They are not just selling fantastic goods and services, they also play an integral and broader role supporting local people and showing real community spirit.’
American Express found that small shops across the country are providing £537million worth of added-value services, which equates to £3,058 worth of time donated each year by the average small shop.
The most common examples were checking in on elderly and vulnerable neighbours, lending a friendly ear or giving advice on personal matters, personally delivering products free of charge and creating or sourcing bespoke items.
Communities served by a greater proportion of independent small shops benefited twice as much on average with £6,998 worth of added value services compared with £2,956 in areas with fewer independents.
The research also confirms the positive economic impact small shops have on their local community, with the average shop questioned spending an estimated £247,500 per year on various aspects of running its business, 60 per cent of this spending is made locally, meaning that the average small shop re-circulated £148,500 back into their local economy last year alone.
Areas with a higher proportion of independent, small shops were also found to increase social interactions between shoppers, with people in these areas twice as likely to say “hello” to people on their high street – 163 times a year compared with just 96 times a year for those who live away from independent shops.
Similarly, shoppers on independent high streets are twice as likely to have a conversation with someone they do not know, having 56 conversations a year compared with 28.
A further 13 per cent of residents from areas with a higher proportion of small businesses consider local shopkeepers their friends while just three per cent do in other areas and a quarter (25 per cent) know
them by their first name. This increased familiarity translates into greater feelings of social belonging, with 64 per cent of these shoppers describing their local high street as the ‘heart of their community’ compared with just 17 per cent in other areas.
According to the findings, people who live near small shops are 16 per cent more positive than those whose high street is less well represented with independents.
In addition, living in an area that ‘feels friendly’ (59 per cent) and ‘where there are familiar faces in the local area’ (45 per cent) are considered amongst the most important in terms of generating a sense of wellbeing in a local community.
Rafa Marquez, UK Managing Director at American Express, said: ‘American Express has a long history of working with small independent retailers and we recognise the role they play in their local communities.
‘This research shines a spotlight on those personal, added value services that take the notion of customer service to another level. We hope the rest of the country joins us in showing appreciation for these heroes of our high street by shopping small this Small Business Saturday.’