Buy local or bye local: How to support independent businesses

The announcement of a total lockdown back in March was every independent business owner’s worst nightmare. With no backing of corporations or large pots of money to rely on, it was a very worrying time for the small businesses in Milton Keynes and across the UK. When you buy from a small business, you are paying someone’s wages and therefore feeding their family, paying their rent or mortgage and allowing them to do something they are passionate about. Supporting local is something I have always advocated and I don’t think independent businesses in Milton Keynes get enough recognition or support. Many of them did not have access to government support, so had no choice but to carry on.

When lockdown was announced, it was independent businesses that managed to transform and adapt their offerings almost overnight. A great example of this is AB Fruits, a fresh produce supplier in Bedford who lost 98% of their business overnight when restaurants closed. They have launched AB Fruits At Home, offering a valued delivery service. Nonna’s in Woburn sands also transformed their restaurant and deli into a community shop, selling fresh good and other groceries so they could survive whilst serving the community.

As we move out of lockdown and people ush back to McDonald’s or Nandos, it’s important to remember who was there for us all and serving the community throughout this difficult period – Indies are for life, not just for lockdown! And as I said in this blog post last year, it’s time to vote with your wallet or we could be waving goodbye to our local businesses.

Sophie etc, MK Food Blogger at The Whisk Kitchen, Woburn Sands

Five ways to support independent businesses

In this blog post, you’ll find tips on how to support independent businesses. It’s not something that is accessible to everyone, but I want to highlight how important it is to do so if you can. Plus, it doesn’t have to cost you anything!

1. Choose independent

The most obvious way to support independent businesses is by shopping with them. Whether you are buying a birthday gift or even a greetings card, the money that you might spend with a national retailer is much better spent with a local business. If you need a recommendation for something specific, just drop me a message and I will be happy to recommend something!

For every £10 spent with a local independent shop, an additional £50 goes back into the local economy. The money helps communities to thrive because small business owners are more likely to support other small businesses. So it’s a win-win.

EXTRA TIP: If you’re ordering food for delivery, order directly through the restaurant, not through third-party platforms like Just Eat or Deliveroo. Just Eat takes up 20% from each order – which is a lot of money for an independent.

2. Write a positive review

This is an action that you can take right now! If you have eaten at a local restaurant or bought a gift from an independent shop or website, make sure you leave a good review on their Facebook, TripAdvisor or Google My Business Page. It doesn’t cost you any more money but it helps reinforce that they offer an excellent service and will encourage other people to shop with them. It’s also really nice for business owners to read positive feedback!

If you don’t have a good experience, instead of going straight to social media to have a moan, take it up as a private conversation with the business owner. This is much more productive and less damaging. Not everyone can get everything right all of the time, but they can improve their service and offer solutions if you contact them directly.

3. Spread the word

Word of mouth is one of the best free marketing tools out there. Tell your friends, family and colleagues about them and recommend independents when people ask you for recommendations. Again, this is another way to support independent businesses that doesn’t cost you a penny.

People buy from people. I am much more likely to visit somewhere if it has been recommended to me by a friend, just like you guys take my recommendations – I’m your Milton Keynes BFF!

4. Engage on social media

I’m speaking as an experienced social media manager here – engaging on social media WORKS. All it takes is a little double tap! Social media algorithms work based on what content you engage with most, so when you follow a local business, do a little bit of backdated engagement. It means that their posts will show up on your newsfeed. On platforms like Facebook, if you like or comment on a post, it will often pop up in your friends’ newsfeeds so it helps other people discover local business too.

A bouquet of pink peonies held up against a white wall

5. Support independent initiatives

There are lots of people across the UK just like me who are really passionate about supporting independents. Just a Card is a great campaign founded by Sarah Hamilton who saw the quote “If everyone who’d complimented our beautiful gallery had bought ‘just a card‘ we’d still be open.” They offer support and networking for independent business owners across the UK. You can support them by buying a pin badge or displaying a banner somewhere on your website.

Independents’ Day UK is a new initiative for 2020 and is a campaign that independent retailers in various sectors across the country can use to promote their business online. It’s taking place on 4th July so if you’re an independent business owner, get involved! And if you’re a shopper, you can pledge to support or buy from an independent business on the 4th.

Buy local or bye local

It is always a shame when a chain restaurant or franchise closes as there’s always a loss of jobs. However, for the business as a whole, there’s usually another location to fall back on in Milton Keynes, if not elsewhere. I’m still shook there are five Nando’s and EIGHT McDonald’s in MK.

If we don’t support local businesses – that’s it. It is only by consciously shopping with and supporting independent businesses we can make a real difference to our local economy and help them survive and thrive after their extended period of closure.

Which tips will you be actioning to support independent businesses?

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