Small and medium sized enterprises employ around 13.5 million people in the UK and account for a whopping 53% of GDP. Yet how much do we value them and recognise what a force for good they are?
For every quid we spend in a local business between 50p and 70p will stay in the local community, creating jobs and helping the economy of Hammersmith and Fulham withstand the recession.
We all like local businesses (or at least that's what we tell researchers) but we don't always think about them first when it comes to spending our own cash.
Our default position is the comfort and predictability of multiple retailers over an adventure into the unknown with a local firm.
Over 80% of the entire population will visit McDonald's in a 12 month period. True enough, they make food and create an atmosphere that a lot of people really enjoy but that's not the whole story. The real reason most people go there is because they know exactly what they are going to get.
My simple theory is that local businesses have to make themselves approachable and easy to use. It sounds basic but I'm sure it's true. We use multiple grocery because it's easy and we don't have to ask for a particular cut of meat, we just choose it from the shelf. We use McDonald's because they have made repetition into a business art-form and taken the risk out of eating out. We can get sniffy about it or learn from it - I know which I choose.
Of course supermarkets are a fixture on the landscape and here to stay and we all use them. But the New Economics Foundation found that 70% of us would prefer to buy locally from local shops. Another piece of research, this time by Populus revealed that 63% of people believe Multiple Grocery outlets offer less choice, 68% think they damage the fabric of the local community and 62% think they are less friendly and offer poorer service.
Both of these surveys are a bit out of date (2007 and 2004 respectively) but it's hard to believe opinions like that change so significantly over time.
The business potential is there and people claim they are willing to buy locally and so businesses need to make sure they are not, by contrast to the multiples, a leap in the dark.
There are lots of ways (naturally some of them involve thebestof!) of making a business more open and lifting the veil on what it does and that's the way to get extra customers.
For example I'm hoping local firms will use the ability we offer of making very cost effective professionally shot video footage of what they actually do when they are being brilliant florists or hairdressers or builders. They can use us to show off about what a lovely team of people they have or what a fantastic facility or what amazing testimonials their customers are happy to deliver to camera. The video is then streamed from our website and can be linked on e-mails or used at exhibitions or sent to regular customers.
I'd be more inclined to use a business if I'd seen behind the scenes and felt I'd got to know the people a bit but maybe that's just me.
Let me know what you think if you get a moment.
p.s. - on our home page of the website at the moment is a link to a survey we're doing nationally into attitudes to local shopping - would be brilliant to get your views too - just click the link - it takes 3 minutes to complete, promise.
Member since: 10th July 2012
I'm the owner of thebestof hammersmith and fulham so I get the chance to write about the borough and all the good things I find as I go around talking to businesses. Join in and tell people about...