CUSTOMER SERVICE: Heather Mildwaters from the Ipswich Antique Centre prides herself on delivering quality customer service.
CUSTOMER SERVICE: Heather Mildwaters from the Ipswich Antique Centre prides herself on delivering quality customer service. Inga Williams

Adding up the benefits of shopping small and locally

SHOPPING small is good for our community, our economy and our emotions.

The findings of The Economy of Shopping Small Report come as no surprise to Ipswich retailers Heather and John Mildwaters.

The recent American Express-commissioned survey looks at the shopping habits of 1000 Australian consumers and the sales habits of 700 small businesses.

The report underpins the month-long Shop Small campaign that encourages the region's residents to spend more money at local businesses during November.

The research shows that 54% of shoppers reckon they become strongly attached to local small businesses when people behind the counter go out of their way to build an emotional connection with them.

The value of a smile also goes a long way with 42% of shoppers saying a happy face will inspire them to continue supporting family-owned businesses even if there is a 10% price rise.

Mr and Mrs Mildwaters pride themselves on the way they and their staff interact with shoppers.

"We always attempt to greet each customer and advise them of the location of the various rooms in the centre if they have not visited before," Mrs Mildwaters says of helping her customers make the most from their visit to what she proudly calls "regional Queensland's largest antique centre".

"In small business, the personal touch is extremely important."

The report also shows that business owners know happy faces make happy customers, with 99% saying they always welcome their customers with a smile and 94% revealing they go out their way to personally thank shoppers.

More than 90% of owners know the names of their regular customers and 80% take an active interest in their personal lives.

Mrs Mildwaters says taking the time to know what makes a customer tick will pay dividends in the long run.

"What is the saying? 'Arrive as strangers and depart as friends'," Mrs Mildwaters said.

"It is amazing what one learns of customers' families, aspirations, operations etc.

"Some days I feel like a social worker."

The report says 62% of shoppers believed their local small shops gave their community a charm that major retailers could never hope to replicate.

Small businesses are often considered the life-blood of our region's community and economy.

"Let's face it - small business is the backbone not only of the local area, but of Australia," Mrs Mildwaters said.

BY THE NUMBERS

  • 54% of consumers agree that small businesses provide positive emotional value, breeding feelings of attachment
  • 62% say small businesses give the community its identity and its charm.
  • 99% of small business owners say they welcome their customers with a smile.
  • 94% of owners personally thank their customers.
  • 90% of owners know the names of all regular customers.
  • 80% of owners actively take an interest in their personal lives.
  • Even with a 10% increase in prices, 42% of shoppers will support small family-run businesses.
  • Those who prefer customised or personalised products and services are 18% more likely to preference shopping small (54% v 46%).
  • Those who prefer businesses that support the local community are 15% more likely to preference shopping small (53% v 46%).

Source: The Economy of Shopping Small Report