There’s a growing community of shoppers who go out of their way to buy from independent retailers. It could be the sense of belonging that draws people to high streets instead out-of-town retail parks.
And with Christmas coming, this contingency of consumers will be beating a path to butchers, cake shops and bookstores to buy festive food, presents, and to engage with their neighbours.
Liberating local retail
Until recently buying from independent shops has often meant paying in cash or being charged a transaction fee for using a debit card. It's not ideal for store owner or customer. Thankfully, business is getting easier with technology creating new ways of paying and eliminating fees, which can heavily impact small businesses' profits.
Two fintech entrepreneurs Steffan Aquarone and Will Grant first came up with the idea for a new mobile payment app whilst, rather aptly, chatting in a Birmingham independent coffee shop.
Droplet was created in 2011, and with zero transaction fees, it's affordable for the smallest of traders although it does require a monthly £20 fee. This regular cost isn’t putting people off – 300 businesses are already using it, and more are signing up.
Christmas shoppers in Cambridge, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester and Norwich are now able to pay using the Droplet app at lots of independent shops, restaurants and cafes. In fact, 2,700 people used the app during October alone, and the popularity is increasing month on month, with many making Droplet purchases 3 or 4 times a week.
The app's popularity could be a reflection of the growth in the independent retail sector at the moment. Some businesses are even claiming to be seeing a post-recession high in trading.
Fintech 'n' chips
The Grosvenor Fish Bar in Norwich is certainly seeing the benefits of the app. Owner, Duane Dibartolomeo, think it's convenient for customers. The shop also runs its own loyalty scheme: with every purchase made with Droplet, Duane's customers get a digital stamp. They can claim a free gift when they collect 10. Duane sees Droplet as a social media tool too – the business name appears on customers' screens when they open the app, reinforcing brand profile each time it's used.
Droplet is brilliant, especially for small independents like ourselves, and it’s an excellent choice for customers not wanting to pay a 50p card fee. With the busy Christmas shopping season, the app speeds up queues. Customers can actually pay whilst still in the queue by just using the phone they already have in their hand. They love it! Duane Dibartolomeo, Grosvenor Fish Bar
As long as fans of independent patisseries, fish bars, coffee shops and such like are embracing fintech, then this Christmas could be a bonanza for Droplet customers. But the proof will be in the figgy pudding when the pennies are counted at the end of the busy festive period.
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