‘Retailers must make the most of ‘buying local’ mega trend’

More consumers are buying locally – a golden opportunity for independent retailers, says Trend-Monitor research director Jane Blakeborough.

More homeowners than ever are doing their own research before deciding what to buy, according to a study we carried out recently into the purchase journey for a bathroom. It also showed that they are more likely to shop around to find the different components for their new bathroom. 

Instagram and Pinterest has enabled consumers to see beyond the bathrooms and kitchens our neighbours, friends and family have had installed in their homes, or the often sterile room sets seen in brochures. 

We can now see into the homes of millions of people all over the world and this has broadened our view of design and generated ideas on a more individual level. This view has given the consumer the confidence to ask for what they want and shop elsewhere if they don’t get it. This is empowering consumers like never before.

Some brands are taking consumer power to the next level and inviting consumers to co-create products alongside their new product development teams. They are stepping back and allowing the consumer to become the creative force behind their new product design and innovation strategies.

By the end of June 2021, UK high streets had lost over 8,700 chain store branches from prominent retail locations. Many iconic brands have disappeared from our high streets for good and store closures will continue well into 2023.   

While the big city centres have felt the brunt of these closures, businesses on the high streets in smaller local towns have benefited as many city centre offices have developed hybrid working arrangements and the neighbourhood has enjoyed a renewed sense of community that has encouraged people to continue to shop locally. 

Buying local

On a mega trend level, buying local is further driven by the global uncertainty around the economy, supply chains, political and military unrest as well as sustainability. This uncertainty is reflected in consumers’ changing attitudes to what is important to them, their need to reconnect with what they feel sure about, to give back in some way that protects themselves and the environment.

And there are many opportunities for independents who are prepared to fully immerse themselves in their local community by supporting local events, developing ties with complementary businesses, running open days, raising funds for local charities, etc. This type of community engagement generates a level of trust that will lead to word-of-mouth recommendation. 

The biggest danger as we slide towards a recession is the temptation to drop prices to compete with the big chains, online retailers and DIY outlets.  

Our research shows, however, that homeowners choose to buy from a local independent retailer because of the service they provide, not because of the lowest pricing. The design element of the purchase process is particularly important, as 65% of people who buy from an independent retailer do so because of the design the retailer did.  

Consumers want to be able to see and touch the products before purchasing and independent retailers score highly on this, along with having knowledgeable salespeople who can give advice on the best products.  

Our research also shows that people buying from an independent are more likely to wait for the right products to come into stock, rather than buying the products that were available. They are also more likely to pay full price for these products rather than expect a discount or wait for a sale or promotion. 

Holding the line on pricing while delivering a top-class service is a much better strategy than joining the ‘race to the bottom’.

The biggest opportunity for retailers in 2023 is…


Omni-channel is where independent retailers can play the big retail brands at their own game. It means delivering a seamless shopping experience to your customers, whether they’re shopping online, by phone, or in a physical store. And your social media posts should match your off-line activities.  

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