UK shoppers plan to spend £8.4bn this Christmas on gifts from independent retailers, according to new research from Direct Line business insurance, providing SMEs with a much-needed boost after more than 18 months of uncertainty.
This is almost a £2bn increase on last Christmas when shoppers were planning to splash out £6.5bn at independent retailers. Each individual is estimated to spend an average of £204 on Christmas presents this year, compared with £157 in 2020.
On average, purchases at independent retailers will make up nearly a third (28 per cent) of people’s Christmas shopping. There are diverse reasons for this, reflecting public appreciation of the service SMEs provide and a desire to give them a helping hand after Covid-19.
Nearly half (44 per cent) report that the quality of goods at independent stores is superior to those of major retail chains, while 57 per cent find the customer service better than at larger businesses. For almost three in five shoppers (59 per cent), smaller retailers are also the best places for finding unique and unusual gifts.
There are also societal reasons for buying Christmas gifts from small businesses. Almost three quarters (72 per cent) of Brits feel it is important to support their local businesses, with seven in ten (70 per cent) wanting to help independent retailers bounce back from Covid difficulties and almost the same proportion wanting to support local employment (68 per cent).
Of those Brits who plan on buying their presents from small independent retailers, over a quarter (29 per cent) will be buying mostly online.
Almost half (44 per cent) are doing so because online shopping is more convenient, reflecting the digital progress that small retailers have made since the pandemic hit, while over a third (35 per cent) want to avoid crowds. More than one in five (22 per cent) are staying away from stores because they are concerned about the risk of catching Covid-19.
More than a quarter (26 per cent) of shoppers prefer to shop in store, with six in ten doing this because they like to see the items in person. 27 per cent do this because they like the social interactions involved in shopping locally and 22 per cent like to meet the business owners they are buying from – demonstrating how important independent retailers are to the high street.
The research also revealed that many shoppers (44 per cent) are trying to get their festive shopping done earlier this year due to concern about the pandemic, with 29 per cent stating that they will do this between two and four weeks earlier and nearly 39 per cent saying they’ll do it a month or more in advance.
Of these shoppers, 38 per cent are concerned about supply chain issues and shortages of stock, while one third are worried about Covid restrictions on non-essential retail being reinstated. However, almost a quarter (24 per cent) are doing their shopping earlier simply because they are more excited about Christmas this year given that last year’s celebrations were restricted.
A wide range of independent retailers are set to benefit from the festive spending boom, with arts and craft and clothing shops set to see the biggest windfalls.
Jane Morgan, SME Product Manager, Direct Line business insurance, said, “The last two years have been turbulent for small independent businesses, so it’s great to see the British public supporting them this Christmas, recognising that they offer unique gifts, first-class customer service and an excellent quality of goods.
“While it’s exciting that independent retailers are set to benefit from a spending boom, it is important that SMEs have the right insurance in place to help protect their business should something go wrong. At Direct Line, we can cover the majority of risks associated with running a business.”