I’m part of the small business network. I own a small business and, because of this, I am now lucky enough to have made friends with many other small business owners. It’s a lovely little world actually, I have to tell you. Genuinely a beautiful bunch of people who have grown businesses from their passion and have aspirations to be able to support themselves and maybe their family, whilst trying to have a positive impact on the world and take control of their own destiny. I believe we are the sorts of people that others love to support. Yet, I’m also a very busy single parent of two children running a household, endlessly washing, cooking, hovering, running a business, organising schedules, maintaining friendships, supporting my wider family, paying bills and generally just trying to find the slipstream in a whirlwind of never-ending tasks and responsibilities. Come Christmas, my workload gets even bigger.
It’s the same for most people. So, I don’t blame anyone who flicks through their phone to find the Amazon app or carves out a couple of hours to whip around the chain stores in the nearest shopping centre to simplify their Christmas gift shopping as much as is possible. Honestly, intention and reality are in constant conflict in my world and in the worlds of nearly everyone I know. Still, I do believe that if we’re going to create a more circular and more localised economy, as well as a more equal country where wealth is more fairly distributed, then we need to support small businesses at Christmas and also in our daily lives.
Once upon a time, Britain was known as a nation of shopkeepers. Apparently, it was supposed to be an insult but I don’t see it that way. The idea that many of us could own and run small businesses and make our living that way I believe is a beautiful concept. Of course I think that thorough - I do it myself and I love it.
Naturally, the world has moved on since then. Small businesses aren’t necessarily local because they can now be accessed online. Yes, there are online retail giants monopolising the internet just as they began to on the high street. Yet, without the need for premises, the online market has enabled far more people to launch small businesses without the need for huge upfront investments. Despite the challenges small businesses have faced through the pandemic, the Brexit impact and inflation, we should still be in a very good position to win favour with consumers. Especially those small businesses that are more ethically and eco-consciously minded.
Without public support though, which ultimately means a commitment to shop directly with smaller businesses over larger more profitable businesses, smaller businesses will struggle to survive, let alone thrive.
I believe that the key to enabling the general public to shop with small businesses is explaining how. In a way that makes it easier for retailers and consumers. Hence, I have put together 5 ways to properly support small businesses at Christmas (and also just generally).
Before we go through these though, let’s look at just some of the key benefits of small businesses:
- Environmentally Friendly - Small businesses cannot mass produce on the same scale that big businesses can. This generally means less waste is accumulated and raw materials tend to be sourced more locally cutting down on carbon emissions
- Redistribution Of Wealth - Most small businesses won’t make huge profits but they can make a living which means more ordinary people have the opportunity to become business owners, follow their passion and earn a livable wage. This means fewer people are reliant on lending their labour to multi-billion pound corporations where directors and shareholders hold the majority of the world’s wealth
- Strong Ethics - Whilst it is unfair to say many large companies don’t have strong ethics, smaller businesses often need to appeal to the more sustainable consumer. It is part of their appeal and therefore, small businesses tend to operate in an ethical way
- Community Building - Local businesses support the local community not only by offering services but by employing locally and contributing to a more circular local economy
- Unique Handmade Products - This is not always the case but there are many small businesses (like mine) that create their products by hand and offer something a little bit different and potentially more special
So, now we know why it’s important to support small businesses, let’s look at how people can do so, especially over the Christmas period.
Attend Local Events And Craft Fairs
Unique Christmas gifts can often be found at local events and craft fairs. Not only do these events provide a lovely outing, but they are also full of small business owners, many of whom handmake their items.
Retailers at craft fairs usually have to purchase a stall so it's really important that these events are supported. In doing so, shoppers are supporting local businesses and encouraging local trade. Aside from this though, these lovely local events are often places where shoppers can find some really special gifts not available on the high street.
It is not always so easy to shop locally. When we do we tend to browse until we find the right gift for each person rather than setting out to shop with a particular gift in mind. Yet, this can mean we discover even better, more unique gifts. It also means that customers committed to shopping with small businesses at Christmas may need to start looking earlier.
Even when we have an idea for a particular gift and attempt to find it via smaller online retailers, consumers may need to consider that it can take longer for smaller businesses to fulfil orders and postage is not always as fast as when ordering with larger retailers.
Spread The Word
You may be supporting local businesses at Christmas, but what about everyone else?
One of the best things you can do for small businesses is to spread the word. Every time you buy a product you love from a small business, let your friends know where it came from.
Social media is a wonderful way of doing this. By following small businesses and sharing their content you are helping to raise their profile. Smaller businesses have smaller budgets for getting their products in front of audiences, so they rely even more on loyal customers to leave reviews, share their content and recommend their products.
Most of my customers have been recommended Olive & Joyce skincare by others who have used and loved it. Having customers who have left me glowing reviews has enabled me to introduce my skincare to others and my refer a friend scheme makes it simple for happy customers to spread the word and share their skincare secrets with their friends.
Choose Quality Over Quantity
It is often more expensive for small businesses to produce products and this can mean a higher price tag for the consumer. However, customers who shop with small businesses are often paying for handmade products with quality and ethically sourced ingredients, which means better gifts that will be treasured for longer.
Better quality though, can mean higher-priced items and therefore Christmas shoppers may need to choose quality over quantity. Yet, this is no loss. It means more meaningful gifts, less waste and it’s better for the environment.
Be Realistic And Understanding
Smaller businesses often can’t do next-day delivery. When you’re buying from a small business they may make products to order, they may have a very small team or even be doing everything by themselves. During the school holidays, my kids love helping me to label bottles and package up items for delivery but although they love to help when they can, it’s usually just me.
Businesses like mine cannot offer the speed of service that Amazon can. Still, we package every item ourselves, with care and attention, and we value every order.
If you’re going to shop with small businesses then you may need to adapt your expectations. Small businesses usually offer an excellent service but you may need to order a little earlier to ensure you get your gifts on time and to take the pressure off of small businesses that can often be overwhelmed during the Christmas period and other holidays.
Supporting Small Businesses Over Christmas
Supporting small businesses is not just for Christmas. It’s all year round. But I know it’s not always easy. Often convenience is simpler. In fact, it’s easier than we ever imagined it would be. We never expected to live in a world where we could find all our Christmas gifts on one website and have them shipped for next-day delivery. It’s great, right? But these things have another cost. These huge corporations will squeeze smaller suppliers and make it impossible for home-grown entrepreneurs to succeed. The consumer - that’s you - has the chance to change this.
We can choose quality over quantity. We can find more unique better items that will mean more but we have to share our finds with friends and family. We have to be a part of the movement to shop local and we have to give small businesses some consideration and understand that we are dealing with people, not huge organisations. But that’s better right? At least, I think so.