How to support a small business
It’s been Independent Retailer Month this July, shining a spotlight on the incredible small businesses within our community, encouraging us to shop local and think small when it comes to our spending habits.
“Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote on the type of world you want to live in”
Powerful stuff. And it’s so true. Every time we part with our cash we have a choice between supporting faceless (soulless) multinational corporations, or we can choose to invest in our unique communities and the real people behind them. It seems like a no-brainer.
But for some reason, as a town (Shrewsbury) and as a nation, we’re struggling. High-streets are dwindling (again), units left empty (again), and hundreds of wonderful, talented people are having to close doors. It feels like we’ve been here before and we all know how this story ends if we don’t step up and show up.
Independent Retail Month is great to try and combat this, but (as with a lot of Awareness Days and marketing campaigns) it seems to be a lot of talk and no action. Loads of buzz on social media, but few people actually putting their hands in their pockets, going a little out of their way to show support. Just this last month alone, 2 long-standing independent shops and an indie theater in Shrewsbury town center have announced their closures.
Of course, each of these announcements were followed by out-pours of sadness, frustration and anger at the news of another small business being lost. But if each of these people had imparted ACTUAL real support earlier, I’m sure it would have prolonged the life-span of these struggling indies.
Sure, we don’t know the stories behind the closures (they could be terrible at business or have unexpected financial hurdles) but as consumers with the pound-power we should be doing all we can to support them. So what do we do about it?
How do you support a small business?
The obvious is stepping through their door (physical or online) and spending money. Taking a little extra time and care to consider buying from a small business, instead of our autopilot Amazon Prime privilege. Yes it may not be EXACTLY that thing you’re looking for, it may be a tiny bit more expensive, it may take longer to arrive. But when you shop small, you don’t just buy a product, you buy an experience, you become part of the owner’s journey, and you’re supporting them in their dreams.
But, as much as we’d love to be, we’re not all made of money and sometimes it just isn’t possible to shop small. What can we do instead to help? Here’s my brain dump on FREE(ish) ways to support small and spread their word.
1) Follow them on social media
2) Like, comment and share on their social media posts
3) Tag people into their posts who you think would like what they’re doing
4) Leave reviews if you’ve experienced their custom (Google and Facebook)
5) Share your experience on your own channels, make sure you tag the vendor in!
6) Enter their competitions
7) Go to their events (obviously some of these might have a ticket price)
8) Say you’re ‘INTERESTED’ in attending their events on Facebook (even if you can’t make it). It publicises it across your News Feed spreading the word to your like-minded friends.
9) If you can’t make it to an event you’d love to go to, try get someone else to go instead
10) Also, if there’s a reason you’re not going to an event, or a not going to their shop any more TELL THEM! It could be something they’ve overlooked. Or it could be other people are experiencing similar and also not saying anything and also not going. Small business owners can only be as good as they can be with the information they are given. Help them out, but give them the opportunity to sort it out away from the public eye (i.e. don’t involve social media).
11) Don’t ask for discounts or mates rates. They’re nice folk and will give them out where it’s fair, but it’s rude to expect
12) Deliver on any promises - whether its promo, reviews, contra-deals. It hurts if promises aren’t kept
13) Keep you’re ‘How much?!’ to yourself. It isn’t something they need to hear, especially if you’re comparing to Ebay, Amazon or a big chain. Small businesses unfortunately have big overheads, but they keep things as competitive as possible.
14) Appreciate shopping small means you’re getting SO MUCH MORE than just the product and giving SO MUCH MORE than just money.
These principles can also be applied to any other small businesses - not just products. Services, food and drink vendors, networking communities, experiences, events, Facebook groups. Anything that is helping passion, people and love thrive, not lining the pockets of fat cats with their yachts.
Honestly, it’s incredible the magic a little bit of social media love can have on a small business. If everyone just did 10% better at shopping locally and thinking about our community, imagine what a thriving hub of happy business owners, creativity and unique offerings our high-streets would be!
On a final note, a member of my Shropshire women in business community (Ladies & Laptops), Jenny Bracelin (The Money Coach) made a big effort to drive an hour each way, to join me at our June event, only able to stay for an hour. Normally she’d get the train and stay for the full day to make the most of it. I was honestly blown away at her commitment. Her reaction to my amazement and appreciation is something that has stuck with me and will continue to reverberate whenever it comes to supporting small