Has the local movement become a way of life for Americans?

Photo: Getty Images/FG Trade
Aug 20, 2020
Tom Ryan

Consumers’ recently renewed refocus on their local communities amid the pandemic will become a long-term trend bringing about the “Decade of the Home,” according to an Accenture study.

Among the findings based on two surveys taken in early-and mid-June of 8,000 consumers across 20 countries:

  • Fifty-six percent said that the pandemic has caused them to shop neighborhood stores, with 79 percent planning to continue to do so long-term;
  • Fifty-six percent said they’re buying more locally sourced products, with 84 percent planning to continue to do so long-term;
  • Respondents showed a net 25 percent increase in intention of purchase local brands – and 20 percent for national brands – versus an eight percent net decline in intention to purchase global brands.

The localization push is believed to be supported by continuing discomfort with public spaces and travel, as well as growing household income fears, that will combine to continue to keep people mostly at home.

The survey found 69 percent of respondents expect to do most of their socializing over the next six months either in their home, a friend’s home or virtually. Fifty-three percent who never worked from home previously now plan to work from home more often in the future.

“Home is now the new frontier — it’s become the workplace, the schoolroom, the place to try new hobbies, the place to socialize and a safe sanctuary — so companies must account for this reality,” said Oliver Wright, managing director and head of Accenture’s global Consumer Goods practice, in a statement.

Accenture said brands can find ways to connect consumers with local businesses. In Denmark, for example, Carlsberg’s “Adopt a Keg” campaign lets consumers scan store-bought bottles or cans of Carlsberg that later can be redeemed for draft beers in bars or restaurants once they reopen.

National retailers also have ways to tap local appeal by working with local suppliers or artists, supporting local organizations and serving as community hubs.

Accenture’s report, however, noted that some small, independent stores are seen by consumers as “local treasures” and supported as “much-loved places that they fear won’t survive.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is the “Decade of the Home” ahead of us as Accenture predicts? What will it take for independent retailers to compete against regional and national chains over the next 10 months as well as the next 10 years?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
" The new normal is a rediscovery of home – its joys and its sense of security. Along with that goes patronizing local businesses."
"Well, all I know is hundreds (thousands?) of independent retailers are going out of business, while Target and Walmart just had their best quarters in history. So, no."
"Independent retailers have a local, and more importantly, hyperlocal, advantage over regional and national chains."

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25 Comments on "Has the local movement become a way of life for Americans?"

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Neil Saunders

Consumers are, most certainly, shopping more locally. Some of this is down to the fact that we crave a sense of community. But a lot is also a function of the fact that we are traveling far less and staying home more. Those shopping trips done while going between work and home, or during lunch hours while at work, have dissipated. They’ve been replaced with shopping nearer to where we live. This will certainly continue for as long as movement remains suppressed.

However I would caution that shopping more locally does not mean just using independents. As we have already seen this week, big chains like Target, Walmart and Home Depot are all doing fantastically well. So too is online. As such, shopping locally is one trend among many caused by this pandemic.

Georganne Bender

Indie owned Ace Hardware retailers are also showing fantastic growth. Q2 revenue was up 160 percent allowing for big plans to move forward this year and next. CEO John Venhuizen said yesterday on CNBC that Ace retailers “aren’t worrying about the next quarter, they’re worrying about the next generation.” Love that!

Dave Wendland

We have heard much of the same from independent pharmacies who have re-established their footing in a crowded market. Responsiveness, access, and empathy are leading the way for them.

Richard Hernandez

I have noticed a greater movement in my community to advertise shop local campaigns. It only makes sense – people are staying close to home, eating at home, working at home, schooling at home, and so focusing on local businesses is a natural extension to those businesses trying to survive in a period of uncertainty. This re-discovery will help in shoring up the business community, but they will need to continue to differentiate themselves from national chains to keep providing services and products to customers.

Bob Phibbs

As wonderful as the “decade of the home” sounds, with Target, Walmart, and Amazon recording record sales, what people say and do seem to be at odds. Quite simply the big have gotten bigger and will use those “we’re essential and you’re not” profits to steal even more market share.

Brandon Rael

Consumer behaviors had been shifting quite a bit before the COVID-19 pandemic emerged. If anything, the COVID-19 pandemic has served as a great acceleration of the personalization and localization movement. We have seen the migration from shopping malls to downtown centers and town centers, and independent retailers have a fighting chance to compete against big-box retailers.

Buying local and from independent retailers not only is a socially responsible thing to do, but it is also a place to connect with the community and have a good experience. There are data and analytics-driven solutions that independent and mid-sized retailers could leverage to drive consumer loyalty, retain their best shoppers, and attract new ones.

While competing on price and shipping is a losing game, local independent retailers have a fighting chance on the experiential side.

Bob Amster

The pandemic has allowed consumers to become more aware of their community on multiple levels from entertainment, to shopping, to dining, to exercising and has allowed them to focus more on a local way of life. Everything happens in varying degrees and the dependence on local community will change from dramatically for some to slightly for others but it will change.

Tony Orlando

The pandemic has helped the better independents, who had a chance to showcase what they do way better than the mega stores. For me it has brought new life to our store, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to talk with new customers about our fresh program for meats and deli, with very good results. Most of the folks have gone back to Wally World and Aldi, but others have stayed because they love the top quality meats and we will go the extra mile to make sure they get exactly what they want, as the other stores can’t duplicate our custom program. The trend to local in the higher income areas is ripe for the store that features many local fresh foods, and that is good for them as well.

Joel Goldstein

We’ve seen this trend emerging for years as American Express jumped on to the “shop local” trend. The younger generation has been making conscious choices when supporting local businesses over larger national stores with their discretionary income.

Stephen Rector

Shopping local sounds nice, but independent retailers have an uphill battle in many places. Dollar General is on a warpath to be in every small town and village in the country which will undercut all the mom and pops that are currently around on price.

Ben Ball

Agreed Stephen. And while the implication of “shop local” is assumed to be “locally owned retailers” throughout this discussion, staying “closer to home” for most shoppers involves a Walgreens, Walmart and a Wawa in addition to the Dollar General. And we haven’t even mentioned online shopping’s rise. I think specialty retailers have a bright future. There was a calming effect to taking a stroll on High Street to visit the butcher, the baker, the fish shop and the chook shop — not to mention the bottle shop! The growing development of pod or walking communities reflects the desire to return to that localized feel for at least a part of our lives and I think it will continue to grow. Of course, so will Walmart and Instacart.

Dave Bruno

If only the local movement could persist for a decade. Sadly, I believe the world is in for a long stretch of real economic pain. And when economic pain deepens, price and value will drive far more purchase decisions than local loyalties and experiences. I suspect Amazon, Target, Walmart, et al will continue to grow revenues and share, at the expense of local merchants who just can’t compete on price.

Gene Detroyer

Maybe I am reading too much into the survey. It seems to imply that shoppers are shopping locally to support local merchants. Some of that may be true, but for the same reason Target, Amazon and Walmart are booming, shopping local is growing. It is all about convenience. For the big box guys, just go one place and get all I need. For the local guys, it is all about convenience.

People want to limit their trips and where they travel. It is about safety and concern. If they project that into the future, they are thinking about the same concerns which may or may not go away.

Liz Crawford

Home is the New Frontier, after decades of moving toward a nomadic work and social life. Home-making skills such as scratch cooking, gardening for food, sewing and DIY repairs had become the purview of a dwindling number of stay-at-home folks and hobbyists. But the pandemic has turned this tide. The new normal is a rediscovery of home – its joys and its sense of security.
Along with that goes patronizing local businesses, over which many feel a sense of community pride and responsibility. Those shop owners are often residents themselves, and a part of that increasingly valuable concept of home. Yes, home and local are here to stay.

Andrew Blatherwick
Consumers were already looking for more local products before COVID-19 came along. It had become a differentiator for many retailers. However the pandemic has certainly accelerated that trend and probably made it more of a habit than it was. Shoppers have had to try local products and experience what is in their local community and may have decided they like it. Now that the pandemic has continued for this length of time it has become more of a habit and will therefore last, which is great news for smaller manufacturers, artisans and local farmers in particular. It would be interesting to know what the breakdown of this trend is by age group. Certainly I have seen younger people try local products more than they would have in the past. They have become much more aware of their surroundings and local community. Older people were already aware of this and appreciated it more. However it would be good to see the statistics as retailers really need to understand what the findings are telling them so they… Read more »
Brett Busconi
I do think there is value to the predictions as part of this Accenture survey — I’m not sure about it being a decade long but that would seem to be as good a guess as any given what we know (and do not know) currently. I also love the idea that Americans want to support local/independent retailers, but I think those retailers face a much more difficult path to success if they cannot manage their own supply chain in a similar (local/direct) fashion. Speaking with other business leaders over the past weeks supported this thought — an example I heard is about adult beverage giant(s) buying up as many cans as they can in an effort to not only make sure they could support the increased orders for canned beverages (vs. draft consumption at bars) but also to block competitors from access to cans — at the same time certainly crippling the local/independent producer in their effort to get more cans. This is not going to be an isolated approach, and unless the local… Read more »
Meaghan Brophy

A “Decade of Home” sounds wonderful, and a lot of people are shopping closer to home. However even with this additional support and shift in mindset, indie retailers have a lot stacked against them. Necessary social distance guidelines mean reduced store capacities, which means lower sales volumes. And small shops don’t have the cash reserves retailers like Target and Walmart do, so they can’t sustain prolonged sales drops. But seeing more people become aware of the importance of shopping local and acting on that is a great step. To keep the momentum, local shops need to make it easy to buy with online ordering and curbside pickup, work alongside other local businesses to advocate and advertise for each other and continue pushing their own value proposition – communicate with customers why it’s important to shop local.

Paula Rosenblum

Well, all I know is hundreds (thousands?) of independent retailers are going out of business, while Target and Walmart just had their best quarters in history. So, no.

Ken Morris

It will take some of us volunteering our time to help these businesses in their time of need. I and some of my colleagues are doing just that in the city of Boston to provide technology, and business consulting and services to retailers and restaurants in the 20 neighborhoods that make up the city through the Boston Main Streets Foundation.

Georganne Bender

I work with indie retailers so you know I love this. But I also understand that big stores have a role to play, too. Without Walmart, Target and other big grocers most of us wouldn’t have fared as well throughout the pandemic. But back to shop local.

I have visited many retailers since they have begun to reopen. Big retailers still have lots of empty spaces on their sales floors; indies are better merchandised. The selection might not be as large but you can generally get what you need. The bonus is that the products are unique and often sourced locally or made in the U.S. We fell in love with big box stores in the ’80s much to the detriment of local retailers. It’s about time the tide started to turn.

Gary Sankary

I’m a board member for our local natural foods coop. I’ve very happy see lots of interest in locally sourced foods. Our customers who are concerned about their carbon footprint are realizing the impact that local food can have in reducing their impact. What’s been really interesting to me in this market is how “local” has begun replacing “organic” as a key attribute for our customers’ food choices. The two aren’t mutually exclusive obviously but I think it does speak to some change in the market.

It helps that our local supply chains have been a bit more reliable lately than some of the longer, global supply chains with lots of touch points across a number of geographies.

Karen S. Herman

Independent retailers have a local, and more importantly, hyperlocal, advantage over regional and national chains. Today, the first course of action for an independent retailer is to adopt COVID-19 practices to help employees and customers stay safe through the entire purchase journey. A local store can schedule appointments or limit occupancy to make customers feel safer. A local restaurant can post a QR code that delivers an electronic menu to the smartphone of a socially distanced diner.

Following CDC guidelines of requiring face masks, social distancing, using hand sanitizer and frequent hand washing is key.

The next course of action is to use social media for hyperlocal marketing and let the community know they are open, safe and ready for business. Supporting independent retailers benefits the entire community and “small businesses generate $68 of local economic return for every $100 spent with them” according to Fundera, Local Shopping Statistics 2020.

Ricardo Belmar
There are multiple factors converging to create this “shop local” effect. First, younger generations have for many years now been more in tune with local, smaller shops because of the products they find there and a more strongly defined sense of community coupled with a distrust of “larger brands” they find to be less authentic. With the pandemic, there is a new factor across generations — people love an underdog story and there is no greater underdog right now than independent retailers. As people spend more time at home they have gained a greater sense of community and while craving contact with others, one way to fulfill that desire is to shop local. So long as local shops can maintain their inventories and deliver unique value with great service, shoppers will keep coming back. One thing to note, however, is that while consumers may be saying they are shopping more locally in surveys, all the earnings reports coming out of big-box essential retailers are showing massive sales gains. So while consumers may shop locally, they… Read more »
Ralph Jacobson

There are at least two different discussions here: Growth of home-based activities, and large versus local retailers.

1. People were doing more activities at home prior to the current pandemic and social tension. Online shopping, home exercising, home meal replacement/delivery, etc. were all growing. These two events have only accelerated the movement back into the home.

2. The challenge for local retailers remains as larger chains dive deeper into local geographies and awaken to localizing assortments (What a concept!). Service is still the last differentiator, so brainstorm with your staff and select only two or three new services/benefits to offer shoppers and execute them really well before adding more.

Brian Numainville

With many more people working at home and going out less, it all comes down to how someone defines local. While some take that to mean independent retailers, others simply mean “closer to me” or “in my city” whether referring to a chain or an independently-owned business. While there was some definite movement towards more unique (and local) retailers pre-pandemic, it has certainly accelerated in this environment. However, depending on the sector, just being local may or may not be enough to survive if the business relies on a lot of daytime traffic in areas now experiencing much less traffic.

" The new normal is a rediscovery of home – its joys and its sense of security. Along with that goes patronizing local businesses."
"Well, all I know is hundreds (thousands?) of independent retailers are going out of business, while Target and Walmart just had their best quarters in history. So, no."
"Independent retailers have a local, and more importantly, hyperlocal, advantage over regional and national chains."

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