Back in the 1980’s the average town planner’s focus was on creating huge housing estates, the residents of which would do their shopping in out of town supermarket ‘superstores’, and for years this was the case. Yet slowly but surely shoppers and businesses began to turn back to local, reversing the out of town trend to the point that now these very superstores are being closed down. After attending the first ever Redbridge Means Business Expo we thought we’d take a look at the benefits of local business.

The first, and possibly most important point for us, is that when you do business locally you come to know the person behind the product and business which then leads to a greater sense of community. This is the same regardless of whether the ‘business’ is simply shopping or larger scale B2B. A sense of community helps people to feel personal investment in the local businesses they use, which in turn can lead to more business in the form of repeat custom and word of mouth recommendations.

One great advantage of local business, and personally knowing who you are dealing with, is that in the event of a problem you know who to speak to. So no more waiting on the phone listening to an automated voice telling you to press 4, after which you end up speaking to someone in a different time zone. You have a problem with a local business, you approach them with the problem and there is a large likelihood that they will assist you immediately. After all, it is not only their business but their personal reputation on the line.

It seems we can’t look or listen to any media outlet these days without hearing a politician talking about what is ‘good for the economy’. However, in the case of local business, this really does benefit the local economy. An American study found that for every $100 spent locally, $68 stayed within the community, versus $43 of that spent at a chain store. That’s over a third more retained locally, certainly not something to be dismissed out of hand.

A large proportion of UK businesses today are small, two thirds of which are owned and run by one person, and 90% of which employ fewer than 6 people. Yet they are still an important source of employment as recent figures revealed that 2.5 million UK tax payers are registered as self-employed. These are the very people who will set up future businesses and create jobs which will strengthen the economy.

There are many benefits to local businesses, the main ones we have discussed here. However, there are of course disadvantages to local businesses, and in our next blog post, we’ll look at what these are and just how a local business can compete with the big corporations.