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Amex backs Small Business Saturday as research finds small shops increase sociability

Friday November 28, 2014 at 4:15pm
American Express is backing this year’s Small Business Saturday with an offer where shoppers using Amex can get £5 credit on their statement for each participating retailer where they spend £10 or more. Amex has also just published new research which shows that small, local retail businesses are a valuable part of the community, with each outlet contributing on average over £3,000 in free community services a year and driving increased social interactions between shoppers, The research, conducted by retail research experts Conlumino and published as part of the build up to Small Business Saturday on December 6 2014, aims to quantify for the first time the social and community value of shopping in small independent shops over and above the inherent economic benefits. The study found that across the UK, small shops provide £537m in additional, unpaid services to the community, while 60p in every pound goes back into the local area. American Express is the founder of Small Business Saturday in the US and is an active supporter of the UK version. Shoppers who use Amex to pay for goods in participating retailers on December 6 will get £5 credit on their statement when they spend £10 or more. Consumers wanting to participate can visit www.amexshopsmall.co.uk and type in their postcode to find shops which are taking part near to them. The research found that the most common examples of community service cited were checking in on elderly and vulnerable neighbours, lending a friendly ear or giving advice on personal matters, personally delivering products free of charge and creating or sourcing bespoke items. Areas with a higher proportion of independent, small shops were also found to have increased social interactions between shoppers, with people in these areas twice as likely to say "hello" to people on their high street (163 times a year vs. 96). Similarly, shoppers on ‘independent’ high streets are twice as likely to have a conversation with someone they do not know, having 56 conversations a year (vs. 28). A further 13% of residents from areas with a higher proportion of small businesses consider local shopkeepers their friends (vs. 3% in other areas) and a quarter (25%) know them by their first name. This increased familiarity translates into greater feelings of social belonging, with 64% of these shoppers describing their local high street as the ‘heart of their community' (vs. 17% in other areas). According to the findings, people who live near small shops are 16% more positive than those whose high street is less well represented with independents. In addition, living in an area that ‘feels friendly' (59%) and ‘where there are familiar faces in the local area' (45%) are considered amongst the most important in terms of generating a sense of wellbeing in a local community. Kate Hardcastle, retail expert and supporter of Small Business Saturday, says: "We've long known that small businesses make a big contribution to their local economies. What this research gives us for the first time is a sense of the extent to which independent small shops are investing in their local communities. They are not just selling fantastic goods and services, they also play an integral and broader role supporting local people and showing real community spirit." The research also confirms the positive economic impact small shops have on their local community. The average shop questioned spends an estimated £247,500 per year on various aspects of running its business with 60% of this spending going on local products or services, meaning that the average small shop re-circulated £148,500 back into their local economy last year alone. Rafa Marquez, UK managing director at American Express, observes: "American Express has a long history of working with small independent retailers and we recognise the role they play in their local communities. This research shines a spotlight on those personal, added value services that take the notion of customer service to another level. We hope the rest of the country joins us in showing appreciation for these heroes of our high street by shopping small this Small Business Saturday."
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