Australia’s Independent Retailers are Remarkable, Let’s Give Them The Recognition They Deserve

By Dave Scheine | 07 Nov 2019

Small Businesses are the backbone of Australia’s economy; according to data from Vend, on average, each independent retailer contributes over half a million dollars to the economy every year. Here’s to them.

The retail sector is uncertain, to say the least. Evidence of a deepening global industry recession is concerning, and the shadows of global corporations like Amazon and Alibaba loom large over ‘the little guy’. However, while the challenges retailers face are undeniable, Australians often overlook the key advantage in their local market- their remarkable independent retail community.

The benefits of our innovative, passionate retailers are visible, both socially and economically, from Western Australia to Queensland, Tasmania to the Northern Territory. Small Businesses are the backbone of Australia’s economy; according to data from Vend, on average, each independent retailer contributes over half a million dollars to the economy every year. That’s a substantial uplift to local communities across the country. Indeed, that’s higher than the global average, $476,000.

While Australia’s retail industry has some challenges to overcome, let’s take a second to celebrate our independent retailers. Boutique retailers not only contribute significantly to our economy, they also often play an integral role in their local communities. They bring people together by creating jobs, upholding local culture, and making the streets engaging and worthwhile to explore.

There’s a closeness and community spirit in our local high streets, towns and cities that is prevalent across Australia, and there’s no doubt that the local shops help nurture strong neighbourhood bonds.

While they might not be able to match big box and multinational chain stores in terms of resources and reach, Australia’s independent retailers have competitive advantages that are helping them curb the effects of macroeconomic trends.

Australians are faithful local shoppers who know the value of supporting independent retailers in their communities. The customer/retailer relationship is nurtured by both sides: the retailers utilise technology and their ability to form deep, personal, and lasting relationships with their customers, which – let’s face it – big brands just can’t replicate.

As a result, retailers understand what motivates and appeals to their local customers, which allows them to provide personalised shopping experiences. Independent retailers are best placed to provide unique in-store experiences with a personal touch, because of their unique and adaptable approach to their customers.

The retail landscape is changing rapidly, with customers shopping online, on mobile, through social media and even using their voice on platforms like Amazon’s Alexa. Consumers expect retailers to have a seamless presence across all channels and those retailers who provide a seamless offering across channels are better poised to succeed.

The media predicted that the aggressive expansion of international giants like Amazon would put many retailers out of business. However, we are seeing a different story with those independent retailers who use platforms like Vend. Those who embrace omnichannel selling, personalise their offering to consumers, and leverage technology are well-positioned to thrive.

There is a movement, particularly among Millenials, to move away from big brands and towards locally made, sourced, and curated shopping options. Australia’s mindful consumers want to know where their data goes and where their products come from. Independent retailers can provide peace of mind by answering those questions.

Sustainability is a primary consideration for many consumers today. With big-box retailers more focussed on mass-produced products and profits, sustainability can hold less importance. However, many smaller retailers are making sustainability a key priority, so are able to better connect with those consumers with whom they share vested interests. They are also more likely to be involved in sourcing a curated their product offering and are better placed to know the origins of the products they sell.

Buying from a big brand can mean paying less, but at what cost? Australians recognise that local retailers are essential to not only the economy but to the vitality of high streets, towns and cities they call home. Consumers like being understood and respected as a valued part of a business, and in return, they’re rewarding small retailers with their custom.

We shouldn’t underestimate the contribution independent retailers make. They’re the fabric of our local communities; indispensable, dynamic and innovative in every way. Let’s face it, the retail world would be a very sad place if we could only buy things from Amazon and Alibaba, so the more we do to support our retailers, the more Australia stands to benefit, both socially and economically.

Here’s to them.

Dave Scheine is Vend’s Managing Director, APAC