Young Brits stay loyal to local shops and a good old gossip, insurer AXA finds


The average Brit has only visited a local business twice in the past month, according to research by AXA, one of the UK’s largest retail insurers. Don’t write the small shop off yet though, says AXA, as young shoppers yearn for the family traditions, gossip and street life of yesteryear.

Generation Digital – those 35 and under – visit small retailers no less than older people, reveals the study, and they actually have the strongest nostalgia for the local shop. Half of under-35s say they would prefer to shop local, compared to 30% of older people.

Family tradition has a special allure for the digital generations: 48% shop local because they like family run businesses; and a quarter because they like going to shops they remember from their childhood. By contrast, only 11% in the older generations are swayed by such nostalgia.

Young people demand something different

Youngsters are far more likely to visit local lifestyle shops than older people: bookshops, record stores, boutiques, tailors and salons. Loyalty to local food retailers is in decline, however: younger shoppers are twice less likely to buy from their local butcher, greengrocer, baker or fishmonger.

When asked what they would most like to see open in their local area, Brits voted for a farm shop selling fresh, local produce. Many seem to crave the open air life seen in many Continental towns, as a courtyard café was named second, and for under-35s, exotic street food (Thai, Japanese, etc.), followed by a late-night beer kiosk came top.

They also love a good gossip…and break a few taboos

The social side of shopping shows no signs of decline. Two thirds of Brits – young and old – say they chat to shop owners about their personal lives. Hairdressers are by far the most popular confidantes – 48%of us reveal private details to them.

Young people are less cautious in these chats than older people. One in three say they enjoy chatting about family and friends with local shop owners, and one in five have confided relationship problems to them. One in 10 – twice the number of older folk – have even revealed their salary during these talks.

Personalities we’d most like to see on the high street

Politics is no longer off the agenda either – but only in the pub! While only seven per cent of us want to discuss politics in a local shop or salon, sixty per cent welcome such chat with the pub landlord. When asked who their fantasy pub landlord would be, Boris Johnson was the favourite for the older generations (securing 27%of the vote). Younger people preferred the quieter personality of President Barack Obama.

It takes a surreal twist for the corner shop, as Elvis is voted the person they’d most like to buy their newspaper from. That unites all age groups (even the under-35s) and all regions of the country. Cristiano Ronaldo, meanwhile, is the celebrity they’d most want to chat to while waiting for their fish supper in the local chippie.

“We’ve had a bit of fun with our research,” said Darrell Sansom, managing director, AXA Business Insurance comments, “but it does have a serious message. People still crave the personal contact of their small shop or pub, and see their owners as local personalities.

“And, best of all, youngsters who’ve grown up in the Internet Age, crave this community life and sense of tradition most of all. Local shops may evolve in the next decades, but the appetite for them is only growing among the next generations of shoppers.”