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BOSTON, MA – Alignable’s Consumer Confidence Poll shows 45% of consumers shifted from shopping at local businesses to purchasing goods from national, online retailers when they were most concerned about COVID. Unfortunately, the majority of those consumers have yet to shift back to shopping with Main St. merchants.
Looking ahead to the rest of the year, this trend could get even worse for small retailers, as the majority of shoppers polled — a whopping 68% — have no plans to spend more money with local merchants for the rest of the year, which could be catastrophic for Main Street’s 2020 holiday season.
Alignable’s Consumer Confidence Poll, conducted from Oct. 10-14, 2020 among 5,831 consumers, revealed that more than half (52%) said they don’t expect to change their current shopping habits in time for the holiday season, while another 16% actually plan to increase their spending with national, online retailers instead of shopping locally.
“Even in a good economy, many retailers count on Q4 sales to make up for the rest of the year,” said Alignable CEO and Co-Founder Eric Groves. “But COVID safety concerns still loom large for many consumers, which, sadly, could turn 2020’s holiday shopping season into the worst one in years for local retailers.”
Safety Issues, Long Lines & A Lack Of Money
While some consumers report they’re not as worried about COVID now as they were earlier this year, almost half (46%) said their fears have not abated. Here are some of their issues regarding in-person, Main St. shopping:
“Our local businesses are not using masks or socially distancing, so we’ll stay away. It’s too risky. Support is a two-way street.”
“There’s no money for shopping. I lost my 2nd job and can’t pay rent. I’m even going to bed hungry some nights.”
“Visiting local stores has become too much of an inconvenience due to COVID restrictions: masking, distancing, one-way aisles, long lines outside of stores, and employees harassing customers if masks are removed for a moment to catch a good breath. So, while I normally only buy local and in-person, I’ve resorted to buying more online.”
“Any brick and mortar store has reduced its inventory because of the unknown. Once we can walk into a store and buy what we want, try on what we want, or touch what we want, my spending will shift back.”
“I already do mostly contactless pickup, but would love to go into stores if I could trust employees and other customers to wear masks correctly. That drives me nuts.”
Silver Lining? Some People Do Plan To Spend More Locally
On a more positive note, 32% of consumers expect to increase their spending among local merchants by year’s end, according to the Consumer Confidence Poll.
While that’s encouraging news, only 11% said they’d spend significantly more.
Given those statistics, this predicted increase in local spending could help some shops, but might fall short of what many merchants need to avert permanent closures.
In fact, an Alignable poll conducted last month showed that 45% of small retailers might not make enough in Q4 to stay afloat into the new year.
Challenges Abound, But What Could Help?
While many respondents were apprehensive about shopping locally, answers to the question: “What would most contribute to shifting your consumer spending from major online businesses to locally owned businesses?” offered a few potential solutions.
“Knowing money spent locally helps my community and local merchants recover,” was the No. 1 response – from 34% of those polled.
Unfortunately, many consumers don’t realize that the more money they spend with local merchants, the faster their community will recover, enhancing their quality of life. That’s why movements like #ShopLocal and Alignable’s #MyMoneyStaysLocal are important to promote, showing consumers the many reasons why they should keep their money close to home.
The second most popular answer (from 16% of consumers) was: “Requiring people in stores to wear masks and maintain distancing.” While some people still resist wearing masks, it’s important for merchants to follow stringent safety guidelines in hopes of welcoming many customers who still fear contracting COVID through local shopping.
End The Stimulus Stalemate
“Educating consumers about the economic benefits of shopping locally, and encouraging even more merchants to follow stringent safety guidelines are two important steps to combat the trends we’re seeing,” added Groves. “But more has to happen and soon. That’s why we’re calling on everyone to urge Congress to break the stimulus stalemate and provide more money to businesses most in need, especially small, independent retailers. Time’s running out for many of them.”
To read more about these solutions, take a look at Groves’ editorial: “Is The American Dream on the Verge of Extinction?”
For more information about #MyMoneyStaysLocal, go to www.mymoneystayslocal.org.
Finally, to learn more about Alignable’s Consumer Confidence Poll, including the methodology behind it, please contact Chuck Casto at email@example.com.
About The Alignable Research Center
Alignable is the largest online referral network for small businesses with over 5.5 million members across North America.
Alignable established its research center in early March 2020, to track and report the impact of the Coronavirus on small businesses, and to monitor recovery efforts, informing the media, policymakers, and members of its network. To see past polls, go here.