Has COVID-19 made the ‘shop local’ message more real for consumers?

Discussion
Source: Brooklyn Running Co.
May 01, 2020
Tom Ryan

With the coronavirus pandemic leading to the temporary and possibly permanent closure of scores of local restaurants and stores, the “shop local” movement appears to be getting a huge boost.

The uplift is most evident in the number of families committing to ordering carry-out meals to support local restaurants. Many restaurants are trying to survive only on curbside pickup. The local boost is also being seen by some owners of specialty running stores interviewed by RetailWire. They have likewise introduced curbside fulfillment while amplifying their e-commerce efforts since lockdown measures arrived.

“This pandemic moment is supercharging society’s shop local mindset and highlighting the critical importance of small businesses in our economic makeup,” said Matt Rosetti, co-owner of Brooklyn Running, which operates two stores in Brooklyn, NY and two in Eastern Pennsylvania.

Running shop owners see the local love continuing post-COVID-19.

Josh Levinson, the owner of Charm City Run, which has seven Maryland stores, believes that busy shoppers would often “choose the easiest path” prior to the coronavirus outbreak, and that could mean turning to other options other than local retailers. He doesn’t think that consumers will take local commerce for granted after seeing COVID-19’s impact on their communities.

 

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To our Charm City Run Community: Thank you. Thank you for choosing to shop with us via phone, email, and online. Thank you for your notes and kind words. We are thinking of you during these unprecedented times and hope you and your loved ones are staying safe and well. ° We want to continue to say thank you: ⭐For every $100 you spend through April 15th, you will earn $20 to use in-store once we re-open our doors.* Any phone, online or delivery orders placed starting Tuesday, March 24th will count towards this promotion. This offer also applies when you purchase online gift certificates. ° SHOP LOCAL OPTIONS: 1️⃣Call or email your local shop for free shipping or free same day delivery (if you live within 10 miles of a shop). 2️⃣Shop online with free shipping. 3️⃣Purchase an online gift certificate to send to a friend or save for later. Click the link in our bio for all details on shopping local with CCR. ° *Once we re-open, your offer is redeemable on all full-price apparel and accessories. Excludes Garmin, sale items, races and training; and is not valid online. ° Live. Give. Run. Be well.

A post shared by Charm City Run (@charmcityrun) on

“Everyone likes a local business and wants local businesses to survive,” said Mr. Levinson. “They inherently believe they are important to a community and give a community character.”

By all accounts, many local establishments won’t outlast the pandemic.

A survey of over 1,400 restaurant owners conducted between April 9 and April 13 by The James Beard Foundation found only one in five restaurant owners in cities that are shut down are certain that they will be able to sustain their businesses until normal operations resume. Assuming they can reopen, operating within social distancing guidelines and a slow return of customers are expected to significantly limit revenue opportunities for restaurants and stores in the months ahead.

A global survey from Ernst & Young found that 42 percent of consumers believe the way they shop will fundamentally change as a result of COVID-19, including 34 percent indicating they would pay more for local products.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is COVID-19 giving more license for local retailers to capitalize on their importance to communities? How should they best do so? Do you agree that messages around shopping local will continue to resonate after COVID-19 becomes more manageable?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"The benefits being seen due to supporting our communities should have a lasting and real impact and will hopefully allow as many retailers as possible to keep their doors open"
"Shopping local has been a growing trend over the last few years, the current situation has just increased the trend’s growth and importance."
"Shopping local is more important than ever to sustain local businesses. Independent business owners don’t usually have the cash reserves to weather months of limited revenues."

Join the Discussion!

13 Comments on "Has COVID-19 made the ‘shop local’ message more real for consumers?"


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David Naumann
BrainTrust

Shopping local is more important than ever to sustain local businesses. Independent business owners don’t usually have the cash reserves to weather months of limited revenues. In our community, residents are urging each other to shop local restaurants and shops (that have online ordering) on neighborhood sites, Facebook and Instagram to help them survive. I feel sorry for small business owners as this unforeseen tragedy has taken a toll on almost every business except grocery stores.

Art Suriano
Guest
There is no doubt that all shopping and buying habits have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic, and using local businesses more than usual has become one of those changes. From ordering meals from local restaurants for curbside pickup to ordering groceries from restaurants selling them, consumers have changed their shopping methods. The question of whether it will continue after the pandemic is behind us no one knows the answer. I would hope that consumers continue to support their local businesses because their survival will depend on it. We have never experienced anything like this in our lifetime, and we still do not know the full impact it will have on businesses long term, but the small companies, especially the ones right in our own towns, will need tremendous support from all consumers. Hopefully these businesses will be able to promote themselves and remind customers how much they need them, and along with that, consumers will understand how important they are for the local community and will continue to use their services.
Jeff Weidauer
BrainTrust

Three months ago few people thought twice about ordering online, even though a local shop carried the item and offered some expert advice to go with it. As a result of the lockdown, local business awareness is at an all-time high, primarily through the closure of local restaurants and the impact it had on our usual habits. Whether this awareness lasts will depend largely on the efforts of local businesses to connect with customers post-pandemic and keep the relationship alive.

Dave Bruno
BrainTrust
In a vacuum, I do not believe the commitment to shopping local will be enough to sustain many local businesses. However, this crisis has definitely created an opportunity for local businesses to capitalize on the emotional appeal of being local. It’s now entirely up to local business owners to capitalize on that opportunity. It’s time to re-think everything about how they interact with their community, beginning of course with their websites. Websites should be places that engage the community and give like-minded customers a digital gathering place. Websites have to bring brands to life with people, activities and stories in and of the local community. Local businesses need to become visible and active parts of the actual, physical community, too. Make store staff available via email, phone and social media to answer questions and give advice about issues adjacent to assortments. Small philanthropic actions, like donating extra food or working at a food bank can create impressions that build brand equity and mindshare. Expanding delivery and pickup options – and promoting those options- is critical… Read more »
Ken Morris
BrainTrust

I am a board member of the Boston Main Streets Foundation and have seen first hand the devastation this pandemic has wrought. We are working to bring BOPIS and curbside pickup to the over 1,200 businesses in the city. Shopping local is vital to any community and frankly I don’t know how we would survive this disaster without them. Even after we open back up these businesses will only be allowed 50 percent of their capacity. Innovation in social media and marketing coupled with some basic e-commerce technology can allow them to survive but they need to move quickly to shift to a different model.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

We have been surveying consumers every week during this crisis and one of the things we ask them is about their values and what’s important to them. Community is one of the factors that has risen strongly, most likely because people miss being connected to others. I see this as a major advantage for local and independent retailers – many of which have been doing great work to help others during this crisis. I hope that these attitudes persist once the crisis is over and that local retail undergoes a renaissance.

Kathleen Fischer
BrainTrust

COVID-19 has shown a spotlight on local businesses as they are feeling some of the biggest impacts. Their struggles directly affect the community in which they live and work so they should emphasize their importance within the community. Local business owners are your neighbors and friends and your kids’ sports team’s sponsors! Shopping local has been a growing trend over the last few years, the current situation has just increased the trend’s growth and importance.

Ryan Grogman
BrainTrust

Local retailers have always been important to communities and the recent pandemic has heightened both the positive and negative impacts such a crisis can have on these businesses. It’s been tremendous to see the surge in hyperlocal shopping in my own city as stay-at-homers look to support these merchants; however, it’s equally as disheartening to see closed signs and hear tales from some owners of their inability to survive the downturn. Local retailers are an essential part of the community — the money spent there helps to pay local workers, which in turn puts money back into local neighborhoods and other local businesses. Even though I do expect the shopping local sentiment to permeate in the short-term as stay-at-home orders are lifted, most often shoppers will eventually regress to their pre-pandemic behavior. However, the benefits being seen due to supporting our communities should have a lasting and real impact and will hopefully allow as many retailers as possible to keep their doors open once this storm is weathered.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust
Independent businesses have always been the lifeblood of the community, they were just never deemed sexy or important enough to be discussed when compared to corporate retail. Even before the COVID-19 shut down we saw big retailers like Nordstrom trying to capture some of that shop local, shop small magic. My company works almost exclusively with indie businesses and let me tell you they are killing it with customer engagement. Big retailers are screaming SALE, while indies are busy drawing customers in with virtual shopping nights via Facebook Live, hosting one-model fashion shows, leading crafting events, providing multi-meal packages, and more. Their creativity is off the charts. Indies don’t have deep pockets or big staffs, but what they do have is the desire to work hard and a sincere, “we REALLY are all in this together” mentality that is pulling and keeping people close. Their businesses aren’t jobs, they have actual skin in the game. They need to succeed. I believe that consumers will remember that their local small businesses were there for them long… Read more »
Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust
Ricardo Belmar
Retail Transformation Thought Leader
5 months 28 days ago
Absolutely, there is a surge in support for local shops, restaurants, and other businesses. That sense of community has bubbled to the top of many people’s minds more than ever before. Is that enough to help these businesses survive? Time will tell, but I have seen a tremendous effort by these business owners to engage with their loyal customer community. Much more so that the large regional and national brands. While many of those retailers have focused on adding new services to keep business running (e.g. curbside pickup), local shops have focused on building loyalty by being even more personal and active on social media to maintain engagement. Even when they can’t sell, they are creating a new bond with their customers by providing product usage tips, service ideas, and a much truer sense of “we are in this together” since they all live in the same local neighborhoods. That being said, they are struggling more than their large corporate cousins. They don’t have deep pockets that allow them to sustain a prolonged lack of… Read more »
Andrew Blatherwick
BrainTrust
It is great to see that humanity is pulling together during these difficult times. People are looking at their surroundings and wanting to help each other. Strangely, whilst we are more isolated, people are talking more than ever either online or when they do pass others in the street — albeit at a distance. The same is true of shopping. People are looking at their local community and wanting to help local retailers. The big world outside is less important — the focus is much more local. This will help local retailers, or at least the ones that survive, but it will also depend on those local retailers thinking about what they have done to their business during this time and the innovations they’ve started like curbside collections. And they’ll need to stay innovative and adaptable to what is going to be a very different world after Covid-19. If a retailer sits back and expects that people will shop more local, they will lose. There is no given right to get customers from the local… Read more »
Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

I think this is one of the huge positive aspects of the crazy crisis. I truly believe that local businesses will continue to enjoy increased loyalty far beyond the pandemic.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

To some extent, but I think the bigger issue is to what extent, if any, will people increase their total spending: so many of the “local” businesses that are hurting right now – restaurants, barbers, etc. – were never logically part of the ‘shop local’ movement b/c there were no alternatives…no one goes to a fulfillment center for dinner or a haircut. So when “afterward” finally comes, will people eat out more or get a trim more to make up for the revenue lost. Some might, some will want to, but be unable to do so b/c of their own situations..and the latter of course is the stuff of which Depressions are made.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"The benefits being seen due to supporting our communities should have a lasting and real impact and will hopefully allow as many retailers as possible to keep their doors open"
"Shopping local has been a growing trend over the last few years, the current situation has just increased the trend’s growth and importance."
"Shopping local is more important than ever to sustain local businesses. Independent business owners don’t usually have the cash reserves to weather months of limited revenues."

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