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Survey says these are the best things about shopping small

The average American “shops small” more than 200 times a year.

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Smiling young African entrepreneur standing by a point of sale terminal in her restaurant extending a friendly handshake
(Ground Picture via Shutterstock)

The average person “shops small” 213 times throughout the year.

A recent survey of 2,000 U.S. adults revealed nine in 10 (93%) people rely on a small business for events in their lives.

A whopping 88% know someone who is employed at a small business in their community, with the average person knowing four names of small business employees.

The survey, which was commissioned by AT&T and conducted by OnePoll to highlight the impact of small businesses ahead of Small Business Saturday, found that people regularly rely on a small business for everything from manicures and pedicures (54%) to handyman services (45%) and ​​haircuts (44%).

Preferences differed by generation, with Gen Z respondents the most likely to frequent e-commerce shops (59%).

The local touch may do wonders for people’s taste buds, as 72% agree food and drinks taste better at small, local restaurants or cafes than at chain establishments.

Three in four (74%) rely on small businesses because they have certain products or services that are difficult to find elsewhere. Items people regularly buy there include tea (44%), groceries (43%), flowers (40%) and soda (40%).

More than half (56%) say these products are better quality at their local retailer than those available online — 41% are even able to find items that would otherwise be difficult to find online.

The best things about shopping small? Being able to see and touch products before buying them (57%), having products available within walking distance (52%) and socializing with the salespeople, owner or with other customers (46%).

Interestingly, most people find out about small businesses from their inner circles. Fifty-nine percent hear about them from family, and 56% from neighbors.

People also come across local businesses through social media or local community apps (48%).

“More than a decade since its founding, Small Business Saturday continues to promote the importance of supporting small and local businesses,” said Caleb Deerinwater, VP of AT&T Mass Markets, Sales & Distribution. “While 62% of our respondents would prefer a small business over a large retailer for the uniqueness of a gift or service, a similar amount (61%) want to support their local community.”

More than half (54%) “always” or “often” use Small Business Saturday to support their local brick-and-mortars.

Shopping small has an impact on many lives — 73% said they would not know where to go for certain items or services without the local, small businesses in their communities.

People also don’t take these stores for granted — more than two-thirds (68%) said they would donate money to help keep a small business in their community running.

And for many, shopping and supporting local stores doesn’t have to be tied to a physical location. Nearly two-thirds (65%) said they trust small businesses online that don’t have a brick-and-mortar storefront.

“Small business owners need different types of support to run a successful endeavor,” Deerinwater added. “Having a high-speed internet connection with 24/7 network security is essential to keeping operations running smoothly and staying connected to customers.”


  • “Handcrafted rug.”
  • “My kids’ lunch boxes.”
  • “Non-branded coffee and handmade baked goods.”
  • “Gnomes for specific occasions.”
  • “A custom-made wooden sign for a couple celebrating an anniversary.”
  • “Bird feeder and wind chimes.”
  • “Handmade items from a tribe in Africa.”
  • “Gluten-free bread crumbs.”
  • “Civil war-related objects.”
  • “A rare out-of-print book in a used bookstore.”

Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 general population Americans was commissioned by AT&T between October 27 and October 31, 2022. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).

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