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A New Lay of the Land


This past year has changed the way consumers shop and purchase their goods and services. The stay-at-home lifestyle has brought about a huge increase in online shopping, on-line business connections and on-line consumption of just about anything and everything. Shopping habits have shifted and who knows if they will return to their former ‘pre-Covid’ days. Research says they could be here to stay. 


We know online purchasing has been growing steadily over the past few years as evidenced by the huge growth and profits of ‘big box’ e-commerce sites, especially since March 2020. Large bricks and mortar retail outlets also flourished because shoppers bought in bulk and ventured out less often. The past fifteen months have shown us that consumers directed a majority of their disposable income for essentials towards e-commerce sites and large warehouse-type stores. However, a shift began to happen for those buyers who searched out opportunities to buy directly from farm producers and growers. Consumers who felt challenged by changing rules sought new options which created new opportunities  for small and medium size rural businesses who were offering a different experience.  

Opportunity shows up in many ways. Now as the general public is shifting out of survival mode and looking for new ways to feel inspired, to have meaningful experiences, to feel connected again… they realize they will not find these experiences, connections and feelings of inspiration through the mechanized monetary transactions of the ‘big box’ retailers. To be appreciated, to find relatability and to receive great customer service they will look, as others did, towards the independent direct-to-consumer brands and businesses.  

Research reveals that consumers want to buy from businesses that reflect their values, businesses that can offer them more real-life experiences and fulfill their need for a sense of discovery. In fact trends indicate that consumers want to shop from independently owned businesses for a lot of reasons.

Here are the top three:

  1. They want to support entrepreneurs
  2. They want to buy unique products.
  3. They want to experience good customer service.

Part of the intention behind new and emerging shopping habits is that savvy consumers realise that by spending their money with independent businesses they help strengthen their local economies, support local job creation and are investing in their communities. So what kinds of businesses can offer consumers a fresh buying experience? Rural businesses! 

Rural businesses have been pivoting and collaborating and getting themselves strategically aligned to offer beautiful, simple and back-to-basics goods, services, stays and experiences both in-person and on-line. Amping up their digital platforms has increased their visibility and reach whether they are selling home-grown meat and produce, flowers, handmade soap, fashionable clothing, leather goods, home décor, etc. … the list is endless. 

Agri-tourism and rural stays are also part of the growing movement for more authentic, natural and sustainable experiences. Rural businesses are uniquely poised to provide immersive offerings that will connect urban and rural individuals, bringing a sense of togetherness and mutual appreciation. This vital connection can bring us all a greater feeling of optimism as we determine how we will navigate the future and build new relationships and shopping habits into our lives. 

Featured image by Chelsie Frere of Lumy + Co Photography

Article from: Summer 2021, Issue #3

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