Starved of friendly contact after months of pandemic isolation, 90% of shoppers are craving the friendly service of local independent retailers, according to new research from commercial insurer NFU Mutual.

The research reveals that nearly a third (31%) are shopping with local independents more than before the pandemic, with 42% saying they want to support smaller businesses that may be struggling because of coronavirus.

For nearly two thirds (64%) of shoppers, wanting to buy products from a specialist provider is also a key reason to seek out an independent store.

Richard Young, NFU Mutual agent in Liskeard & St Austell, said: “It’s great to see that so many people love the friendly service that local shops provide.

“After a challenging Christmas for us all last year, a friendly shopping experience is what we’re all craving this festive season. With the pandemic driving up feelings of loneliness, independent local retailers are in a position to help our communities feel connected again.

“Survey respondents told us that genuine conversations, a more personal experience, building close relationships with staff and having a friendly catch up whenever they visit where all aspects of shopping locally that they valued. Others said visiting a local independent retailer gave them an opportunity to catch up with neighbours and friends whilst shopping.”

Farm shops have also enjoyed success over the pandemic, with 73% of people wanting to continue to support or use farm shops even more this Christmas. The main reason for doing so was to support local businesses and the economy over winter.