Shop Small: Why to shop with independent businesses
As an independent business, we can maintain a short and transparent supply chain that enables us to easily oversee production methods whilst minimising our carbon footprint. But aside from helping the environment, why should you shop indepedent?
There are many advantages to independent retail and some of them might not necessarily be that obvious. This journal entry is all about what makes a business independent, why you should shop independent when you can and how independent retailers have an advantage when it comes to helping their customers find what they are looking for.
So what is an independent business? Well, technically it's a business that is not inextricably associated with another business through common ownership, affiliation, sharing of employees, facilities, equipment, profits and losses. And although this may be factually true, it doesn't go any way to explain why independent businesses are so important or what the benefits are.
We have found that by choosing small, local independent businesses to do your shopping with, you can have an impact on the world around you.
Shopping locally is:
- better for the environment; it helps reduce your carbon footprint
- good for the support of local businesses
- an investment in your community
- a way to create demand for local jobs
- guaranteed tailored customer service
So how do these benefits manifest through buying locally?
- Local businesses by nature tend to make more local purchases, supporting local producers wherever they can. This naturally requires less transportation thus less CO2 emissions. Small and immediate levels of dispatch have a much lower carbon footprint compared to large online retailers who often resort to third party distribution.
- It goes without saying that buying from a local business is supporting them but it goes further than that. Often, independent businesses are more connected to the wellbeing of their staff. They can often pay their staff better, pay their taxes fairly and generally keep a closer relationship with their teams, often merging into a real family-feel organisation. So when you buy locally, not only are you supporting a small business, you're supporting all the people involved with that business too.
- Small businesses often give back to the community in different ways including working with local charities, creating or hosting events, enforcing and nurturing connections. How lovely and nostalgic is it to visit a local butchers shop and talk to someone you see every week? Having that connection can help us feel part of something bigger and that isn't something to be taken for granted, especially in the aftermath of the pandemic.
- Small businesses support livelihoods. They employ around 60% of the UK’s private sector workforce. Supporting local and independent allows these businesses to flourish and ultimately expand, absorbing more local talent into the fold.
- Tailored customer service. From local delivery, to specially designed care packages for loved ones, experiences are often much more tailored and thoughtful when you choose local and independent.
We are proud to be an independent business; it allows us to maintain a short and transparent supply chain that enables us to easily oversee production methods whilst minimising our carbon footprint.
We choose our working partners with care and maintain a close relationship with our suppliers. The materials we use are all raw or natural, and certified free from chemicals and harmful dyes.
All our deliveries are plastic free and we use recycled materials where possible.
We spoke to Form SE15, a vibrant clothing and accessories boutique owned by Jo Johnson. We asked Jo a few questions about being an indepedent business retailer.
- What inspired you to create form SE15?
- In some way, everything else in my life kind of led me straight to setting up Form SE15: my training and background is in fashion and the creative industries and after different careers, I ended up running my own homewares label whilst working part time managing a store in Peckham.
- I learned that was closing and I was being made redundant back at the start of 2018, I then spent the next three months working incredibly hard on my business plan and sourcing brilliant brands. The shop space on Bellenden Road became available with a workable rent and it was a very quick process to open once that happened.
- I had to work off of two thirds of my original budget as one stream of funding fell through, but I worked hard to still make it happen and we opened in May of 2018. Originally, it was going to be a soft opening on a weekend and then close to get everything 100% working for the following weekend, but we just stayed open as the customer response was so good!
- The thought process behind the shop was to have a really positive shopping experience for the customer with lots of print, pattern and usuals gift ideas. I worked on the basis that if I loved it, I knew my customers would too! I wanted to have a ‘buy less, buy better’ ethos and to use brands that were either ethically & sustainably made or that offered a large part of their product to be this way. We want you to buy something here and wear it until it falls apart!
Can you sum up what makes a great independent business?
- We probably all have different ideas on what makes a great indie, but from my perspective, it’s offering your customer a fantastic range of unusual & thoughtful pieces you wouldn’t get in your generic chain store. You can see with every small business, the amount of incredibly hard work each individual pours into it to make what they do that’s a little bit different to set themselves apart from the big guns. The fact we are small means we can keep our eyes on every detail!
- On a personal note, I wouldn’t be able to run the shop without the help of my team members Christopher and Eden and my husband is a graphic designer so he’s worked tirelessly on our brand identity, website and emails. But the buck stops with me and that’s very true of every other small business I know....you don’t get time off really as there’s always something to do! But that’s also a great part of working for yourself, you’re never bored!
- I think also being able to input back into your community in some ways makes a huge difference too. Peckham has a community spirit and independence that I hadn’t found anywhere else, so we’ve tried to have a positive impact on the area and support other local independent businesses, we know how much work it takes!
Sometimes you might not be able to shop locally so we've put together a few ways that you can support local businesses without spending a penny:
- Write a review. If you've had a good experience with a small business, even if you didn't purchase anything, leave them a review! It will go a long way and will mean so much to that small business owner and their team.
- Tell friends and family. Word travels fast and it's no different if you can sing the praises of someone you just shopped with. Telling people about your experience and recommending a small business will benefit everyone.
- Follow the business on social media. It can be really tough for a small business to generate a good following and your support will help boost their views and revenue!
- Sign up to mailing lists. If you don't mind receiving a few emails now and then from the business you visited, sign up to their emailing list! They won't bombard you and you might pick up some great offers in the future.
We hope you have been inspired to 'shop small' in the future when you can. You may never know how much of a difference your purchase has made to someones' business and their employees. Often shopping locally involves slowing down the pace of our lives, which seem to be speeding up so much. But if you can manage to do this, we guarantee you will see the difference in your community and in the relationship you have with the items you buy.