Retail Voices Spotlight

Why Do People Shop At Independent Retailers? Here’s What 6 Millennial Women Had To Say

To understand why people shop at independent retailers, we asked 6 millennial women what they like about mom-and-pops and what they think could improve.

Millennials have grown up with internet shopping and big box stores, yet many still prefer to shop local when possible. To understand why they make the shopping decisions they do, we interviewed 6 millennial women about their shopping patterns and how they thought their local independent retailers could improve. 

Millennial Women standing outside an independent retailer

What types of independent shops do you go to, and how often do you shop at them?

‘I go shopping multiple times a week at skincare boutiques, clothing shops, vintage shops, bookstores, and shoe stores.’ – Katelyn M., 34, San Francisco, CA

‘Vintage & second hand stores, any gift shop that might have jewelry and/or fun greeting cards. I also go to the bookstore/gift shop/coffee shop in my neighborhood. I go to these places once or twice a month.’ – Amber P., 37, Minneapolis, MN

‘Bookstores, comic book shops, gift shops, and athletic/sports stores. I shop about once a week.’ – Jen C., 34, Philadelphia, PA

‘I go to independent stores once or twice a month, mostly bookstores and clothing stores.’ – Christen K., 28, Connecticut

‘I love candle shops, handmade clothing, and purses. I shop a couple times a month.’ – Erika C., 32, Oklahoma

‘Thrift stores, vintage shops, bookstores, art supply stores, record stores, and art shops. I shop about once a week!’ – Jessica S., 27, Danville, CA

unique finds at an independent retailer

Why do you go to these shops? What types of things are you looking for? Are you always going to buy or sometimes just to look?

‘Independent brands always spark my interest because the stores themselves tend to be unique and therefore their products are more interesting. Generally the people who work there are more passionate as well. I rarely go in to buy but often walk out with something depending on what kind of store it is.’ – Christen K., 28, Connecticut

‘About half the time I’m going to buy something – a greeting card, or a gift. The rest of the time I just enjoy looking at beautiful things.’  – Amber P., 37, Minneapolis, MN

‘I go to find unique things as well as support local businesses. I’m usually looking for a unique piece of clothing, vintage/thrifted home decor, or a new book to read. Sometimes I’ll go out of my way just to hang around these places and see what’s new; I don’t always end up buying but I frequently do.’  – Jessica S., 27, Danville, CA

‘I go to independent bookstores because so many people choose to just buy on Amazon and I prefer to support small businesses. I’m looking for unique titles, sometimes zines made by local artists and if it’s a clothing store, unique finds and good deals. If I go to a bookstore or gift shop, I always buy. If it’s a clothing store sometimes I buy.’ – Jen C., 34, Philadelphia, PA

‘I want to support local businesses and female entrepreneurs.’ – Erika C., 32, Oklahoma

‘I like to browse when I’m bored. Sometimes I’m looking for something specific, and if I don’t see it, I don’t buy.’ – Katelyn M., 34, San Francisco, CA

millennial women at a food truck outside an independent retailer

What could these shops do to make you come in more often?

‘A lot of these independent retailers don’t have the greatest web presence, and if they did I would definitely go more/be more aware of them. I understand it’s not feasible for them to add inventory online, but just a pic or two of something new would entice me! Maybe if they had events I would come in more often. Skylight books has some good visiting authors/book signings and that’s enticing.’  – Jen C., 34, Philadelphia, PA

‘As lame as this sounds, maybe better advertisement with something as quirky as the store itself. Or a collaboration with another independent retailer like a clothing and food collaboration or a coupon where if you come into one of the stores they give you a coupon for the other one.’ – Christen K., 28, Connecticut

‘I would love to see more events – like wine tasting, tarot reading, chocolate tasting or aura readings. I love when I can see a lot of vendors in one place.’ – Erika C., 32, Oklahoma

‘If I knew for sure the store had what I’m looking for – like the inventory listed on the website – I would be more inclined to go in. Also sales and special trunk shows/events are interesting.’ – Katelyn M., 34, San Francisco, CA

‘Look open! Every once in a while I’ll walk by a very hip, very cool, very closed looking store and I pause and wonder if they’re open? Or if they’re just a crazy expensive, too cool for me store. And then I keep walking. I also love a sale rack or sale section! I’ll almost always stop and check out the sale rack, especially if it is out front on the sidewalk. I am a sucker for a clearance section, I WILL peruse the deals and damned if I don’t also find a non-sale treasure.’ – Amber P., 37, Minneapolis, MN

‘I’m not sure! I already go a lot. I would say it’d be cool if there were an independent retailer that provided a range of things like a Target does? Because outside of indie shops and restaurants, the place I most frequently shop – by like a mile – is Target, because I can get everything there.’ – Jessica S., 27, Danville, CA

millennials shopping at a cool neighborhood.

Why do you go to these shops instead of shopping online?

‘Many of these shops are also beautiful, peaceful, and creatively designed spaces, not just brick and mortar with product for sale. I also love that little independent shops usually know the history and/or origin of the merchandise. The employees can often tell you about the local artist that made the earrings, or the estate sale where they purchased the vintage clothing, or they can suggest a great spot for lunch in the area. And it’s nice to run into friends and neighbors at my local bookstore.’ – Amber P., 37, Minneapolis, MN

‘I like how it feels to be in a store and able to touch the merchandise. I also prefer to support smaller businesses.’ – Katelyn M., 34, San Francisco, CA

‘I don’t fit into typical sizes usually so buying online is tricky. Also, I’d much rather find something cool that no one else has (or not a lot of people). It’s more fun to be out and about and discover things then sitting on the computer. I can also control my spending better that way haha.’  – Christen K., 28, Connecticut

‘Primarily because I want to support independent retailers. The second reason is because of the unique finds, this is mostly for clothing but also applies when I’m shopping for zines or comic books/graphic novels. The third reason is because it’s more visually stimulating than shopping online. Plus, you can try things on at stores. I have no follow through when it comes to returning clothes that don’t fit if I have to mail them back. I also enjoy going to actual stores because I live in a walkable neighborhood and can get some fresh air.’ – Jen C., 34, Philadelphia, PA

‘I try to support women in business. If I can support a local, female entrepreneur over a big box store, I do it!’ – Erika C., 32, Oklahoma

‘I hate online shopping for clothes because I can’t try it on, and returning online purchases is a huge pain. I definitely order from Amazon a lot for basic cheap things, but if I want something cool and unique I’ll always check out my local places first.’ Jessica S., 27, Danville, CA

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