Today as part of our ongoing Hyphen Local Insight series, we examine the shopping habits and preferences of Memphians and how their attitudes toward “local” influence the buying behavior.

The concept of local

When it comes to shopping, Memphians certainly value the concept of shopping local. In fact, 39 percent of Memphis Study respondents said shopping local was extremely important. Unfortunately, the intent to shop local is often thwarted for well-intentioned customers because they also value convenience and local shopping options cannot always afford them the convenient options that national chains provide. Sixty-five percent of respondents in our recent Memphis Study said they feel like a national chain is the only viable shopping option for some items. Those who said shopping local was extremely important still shopped at a local retail chain at least once a quarter.

The good news for local retailers is that the desire to shop local is strong and presents significant opportunity for retailers who understand how to capitalize on it.

The majority of Memphis shoppers point to the economic impact of keeping their money local as the top reason they want to spend with local businesses. These shoppers like to feel that their dollars are helping the local economy and they relish the positive feelings their contribution to the local business community gives them.

There are two other key reasons Memphians shop local that can be particularly helpful for small business owners:

  1. Memphians feel that if they know the maker or business owner, they can trust that the product is high quality. There seems to be a belief that items sourced by big box retailers are less likely to have concerns for craftsmanship or quality.
  2. Memphians feel that the city is a unique, quirky place, and by buying local you can get products that represent that original spirit. These only-in-Memphis items are great for those that don’t want to own or give the same old thing.

“I love supporting local businesses and business owners – quality seems better, makes the community feel stronger and I love the environment and culture that small local business bring – a uniqueness that can’t be found in big box stores.” – Memphis HYPERLOCAL Panelist

Hyphen Point of View

Local is not enough

Just being local isn’t enough to make customers want what you are selling. You may have been first-to-do-it in the Memphis market. Your company may make every single product right here in the city. That’s nice, but alone it won’t win you fans or customers. You have to connect your company’s “localness” to the city and your customers in a way that’s meaningful and authentic. If what sets you apart is your quality, then tell that story. If you have a unique history, then share that. Customers want to know and share the local histories and businesses that are a part of what makes Memphis special.

You have to create an experience that’s a part of what you do to expand on virtue of being local and overcome barriers of price and convenience for those customers that may not otherwise bother.

Relationships drive local support.

One topic that was covered extensively in our research related to supporting local businesses was that individuals within a business played a key role in creating repeat customers. In some instances, it was a relationship with the business owner that fueled the relationship. But in many cases, a specific staff person – be it a friendly waiter who remembers your wife’s peanut allergy or a particularly helpful sales associate who knows your size– made the customer feel special in a way that made him or her feel a personal connection to the small business.

Some customers are willing to pay the premium for a local business that delivers the kind of personalized service that comes from a more personalized approach.

In the News
Local retailers are having a great December

The holidays are typically the busiest time for retailers small and large. This year, local businesses benefitted from a big up-tick in sales, particularly on Small Business Saturday, a shopping holiday created by American Express to promote small, local businesses. Demand for unique local merchandise, particularly apparel, helped local merchants start December off with high sales figures, despite low temperatures.


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