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The Rise of Community Spirit and how Independent Retailers have reacted…

Lucy Cope


“A renewed sense of community is welcomed news for independent businesses, with a growing desire to support local stores in life after lockdown.” (Source: Food Manufacture Online)

The world as we know it has come to a halt and each and every one of us has been forced to adapt to a new way of living following the novel Coronavirus outbreak. Overnight, our homes transformed into an office, school, playground, restaurant, bar and gym – all under one roof. Now with more time on our hands and the once frenetic pace of life behind us, a renewed sense of community spirit has arisen from the ashes.

With news of lock down being relaxed, ‘essential’ and ‘non-essential’ businesses are looking at how they must adapt to the new consumer behaviours and protocols born from the pandemic. In a bid to avoid lengthy supermarket queues and delays from over worked couriers during lock down, a large number of consumers have turned towards smaller, independent retailers on their local high street to purchase their every-day essentials.

In recent years, consumers have recognised the health and environmental benefits of purchasing locally sourced produce,  with a growing trend towards sustainable and seasonal food production. The onset of the pandemic has reinforced this desire to ‘live well’; subsequently bolstering the movement towards supporting local ‘essential’ retailers, such as high-street butchers, bakers and grocers who have offered their fresh products and bespoke services throughout the crisis.

A recent survey from Barclaycard supports the above, with statistics showing an increase of 37.5% in greengrocer and bakery sales in April 2020, with more than half of Britons stating the pandemic as the reason for the upsurge.

Convenience is King

With companies now opting for flexible remote working, the office – as we know it – is unlikely to return anytime soon. The busy shopping hubs once utilised on our lunch break will continue to be replaced with the local amenities of our neighbourhood. Cycling and walking have also become the preferred modes of transport for most, reinforcing convenience as a new key component in purchasing behaviour.

The rising popularity of the hyperlocal social media network ‘Nextdoor’ is another example of the increased desire to connect with one’s local community. The community network and hub for neighbourly services connects households by postcode and currently serves 250 neighbourhoods in the UK. Although the app has existed for a number of years there has been an 80% surge in daily members during February and March this year.

A further example of community support is Grosvenor’s Mayfair and Belgravia Community Fund which was set up to provide support to community projects, while encapsulating Grosvenor’s vision to ensure their communities are active, inclusive and integrated. From guitar lessons held in Mercato Metropolitano to the creation of an urban wood in Mayfair, these community projects promote health and wellbeing, encourage community cohesion and togetherness which is imperative during these challenging times.

During lock down, ‘essential’ independent retailers and restauranteurs have quickly launched home delivery services, embraced social media to generate new customers and restructured their business model to survive the pandemic. A few examples of how businesses have risen to the challenge can be found below:

Wild by Tart, a fully immersive neighbourhood restaurant space in Eccleston Yards, quickly tailored their offering in response to the pandemic by delivering food hampers with recipe cards, allowing local customers to create their dishes from home.

The Thai Grocer, a family run restaurant in Earlsfield, and both Story Coffee and the Eclectic Collection, independent coffee shops in Earlsfield and Clapham have transformed their stores into a hybrid-takeaway-come-grocery-store providing essential deli items to their local communities.

The Notting Hill Fish Shop has converted into a superstore, collaborating with other independent brands such as Neal’s Yard Dairy and Natoora to offer locals a one stop destination for essential items – all under the same roof. To meet the surge in demand, they have taken on furloughed chefs as volunteers; helping them stay connected to the industry they love.

As restrictions lift and more retailers reopen, it will be interesting to see how consumer behaviour continues to develop. Will the loyalty these businesses have amassed translate into longer term rewards in the aftermath of Covid-19? We think so.

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