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The Rise of Localism

Localism has become a primary consumer virtue these days, guiding many consumer attitudes, purchasing decisions, online innovations and public policy developments. In this trend summary, The Future Foundation explores the new dimensions of Localism and maps out key commercial implications for business sectors from FMCG to retail, mobile communications, financial services, leisure and travel and tourism.

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•    Defining Localism: The majority of Britons, some 70%, define ‘local’ as their immediate village or town. Almost a third of the British population live in the town or village where they were born. It seems that staying within one’s familiar, local environs is still important to many people.

•    Perceptions of local goods are predominantly positive. Local provenance is often regarded as a guarantee of high quality and can seriously boost a product’s appeal, so much so that consumers are willing to support local in good and bad macro-economic times. However consumers do not share a clear consensus on which characteristics they associate the most with local goods and responses range from ‘good quality’ to ‘environmentally-friendly’, ‘authentic’, ‘natural’, ‘trustworthy’ and ‘premium’.  

•    The rise and rise of local food: 54% of people say they have bought locally-produced food in the last year according to Future Foundation Research (2010). Some 78% of meat and meat-based products carry a country of origin statement in 2010, compared with 69% in 2005.  

•    We have also observed a sharpened level of engagement with the local community, with consumers becoming more actively involved with local issues and preoccupied with protecting the local landscape. Half the UK attends an event at which things are informally sold in a local setting at least occasionally. Some 50% of people also believe it is "very important" to know their neighbours. 84% are concerned about the closure of local post offices, 81% about grocery stores and 56% about pubs (Future Foundation Research, 2010). There is a desire to protect the elements of life that feel authentic.  

•    A marked effect of the recent recession has been the rise of the local leisure pound. Higher numbers of holiday-makers are opting for stay-cation holidays instead of venturing abroad and over a third of people agree that they are "choosing to take more holidays in the UK nowadays" (Future Foundation Research, 2010). This will serve to further promote the profile of UK regional areas as leisure destinations.  

•    Although it may appear counter-intuitive on first consideration, we would contend that the Digital (and mobile) Revolution will render local goods and services even more immediately accessible in future. The local high street will be seriously energised as a result. We reference this phenomenon in our accompanying article ‘Techno-innovation and Localism’.


"Which of the following words do you associate with products that are described as ‘locally produced'?"
% who say they completely associate each word with "locally produced" products
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"I am choosing to take more holidays in the UK nowadays"
% who agree or agree strongly, by gender, age and social grade
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% who have engaged with their local community in the following ways
"Have you done any of the following in the past 12 months?..."
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