Pandemic boosts loyalty to small Irish businesses

Two-thirds of Irish adults are motivated to support the local economy and jobs in local shops and small businesses.

More Irish people are aware of the connection between supporting local and the prospects for economic recovery and creating jobs, new research from Champion Green reveals.

A survey of 1,000 Irish adults by Champion Green – a joint initiative by Kilkenny Design and Visa, in association with Retail Excellence, the Small Firms Association and Chambers of Commerce Ireland – to mark its first anniversary found that there is a welcome recognition of the need to support local businesses.

“People have supported local cafes, service providers and shops throughout the pandemic, in person and online. Now we really need that to continue, so that small business can recover, and quickly”

Almost half (49pc) claim to spend more in small, Irish and local businesses due to Covid-19 and more than a quarter (28pc) say they spend more online with local businesses too.

Two-thirds say supporting the local economy and jobs (67pc) is the top motivation for spending with local traders, while 56pc are aware of shops or businesses locally that will not reopen after the pandemic.  The convenience of having shops nearby (59pc) is also acknowledged as an important reason for staying local by more than half of respondents.

Economic recovery and jobs: The local link

However, just 51pc of adults say they are confident in their employment situation, over the next three months, and only 30pc have confidence in the state of the Irish economy in the short-term.

“People are realising that economic recovery is to a large degree dependent on their consumer behaviour and their support of local businesses,” said Sven Spollen-Behrens, director of the Small Firms Association.

“This is a very positive sign. We would encourage small businesses to build on this local loyalty, with concerted community efforts to create the right environment for consumers to return.”

Almost 1 in 3 (32pc) say they will continue to spend more online with Irish-owned businesses, which bodes well for omnichannel business growth.  22pc say they will continue to spend more with local businesses, overall, going forward.

Town centre renewal

87pc of all adults currently shop in their local area at least once a week, while 30pc eat out locally once a week at a minimum.  The average individual’s discretionary spend per week in their locality is put at €120, excluding household groceries.

“People have supported local cafes, service providers and shops throughout the pandemic, in person and online,” Champion Green founder Marian O’Gorman said. “Now we really need that to continue, so that small business can recover, and quickly.”

Better facilities for outdoor dining (54pc) is nominated as the best driver of town centre renewal, the survey shows.  This supports the work of many local authorities in pedestrianising streets and facilitating pavement dining.

Free parking in the area or nearby (51pc) and a voucher or loyalty scheme specifically for local businesses (46pc) are also popular suggestions to encourage recovery in local economies.

Having hospitality fully open will be significant to local renewal, said O’Gorman, who is also chairof the Kilkenny Design Group.

“The selection of local cafes and restaurants is seen by many people as a reason to come into the local villages, towns and cities, and enhances the local shopping experience.”

Cheaper prices locally (35pc) are most desired from local businesses going forward, consumers also report, with only a quarter (26pc) rating value for money as a reason to shop locally.

Plans for Champion Green this year include a clickandcollection.com platform for locally produced goods and a National Champion Green Week in September to encourage and reward consumer support for local brands and businesses.

The initiative is backed by a €1m investment to drive consumer support for local enterprise and to help SMEs adapt business.

Image at top: Barista at work at Joe’s Coffee Liffey Street, Dublin.

By John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 29 June 2021

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