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Why Canadians choose to Shop Small: How small business bring vibrancy to local communities

While large retailers have a lot to offer in terms of convenience, price point and a high volume of merchandise, Canadian consumers are still moved to support the small businesses in their neighbourhoods.

Why so much love for the little guy? According to the American Express Shop Small Monitor, 4 in 5 Canadians report holding a high level of emotional commitment to small business with four in five (81%) agreeing that they feel they owe it to their community to support the independent small businesses on their local main street.

In fact, small businesses are a main determining factor to where Canadians choose to live. Two-fifths (41%) rate an active shopping district as extremely or very important when choosing a neighbourhood.

This not only means that Canadians have an inherent passion to support the unique products and services offered at independent shops, but it also means these businesses play an active role in their daily routine.

So how can business owners help their business stand out?

  • Go above and beyond. Consumers choose to support small businesses primarily because of the personalized service they get from business owners. Take the time to get to know your customers, especially the regulars, and apply personal touches to their order. Find out when their birthday is and provide a complimentary service. Ask them what their weekend plans are and suggest a product they have to try. A little goes a long way toward fostering strong customer relationships.
  • Don’t underestimate the value of marketing. You don’t need to spend a ton to attract new customers. Sometimes it’s as simple as a daily joke on a sidewalk chalkboard to show some personality, a creative weekly promotion to introduce a new product, or a loyalty program to show your appreciation. The survey revealed word of mouth (80%) and walking or driving by (72%) are the top two ways Canadians find or learn about small businesses in their neighbourhood. Grab their attention by offering something unique and out of the box.
  • Promote positive word of mouth. Four in five (81%) Canadians indicate they are likely to recommend a small independent retail store or restaurant all the time or sometimes. This compares to six in ten (59%) for a large chain store. This means that customer service is extra important for small business owners and will go a long way in spreading positive word of mouth. Neighbours go out of their way to talk about their favourite small shops in the area. Go that extra mile and they will tell their friends and their friend’s friends.


Small businesses are a key driver of our local economies and bring vibrancy to cities across the country. They make up the cultural fabric of our communities and create jobs. They help us create memories with friends and loved ones. Ultimately, they are the reason we choose to live where we live.