Independent local shops have been praised by leading politicians after Retail Express revealed the sector raised £50m for good causes in 2017.

The average shop donated £1,394.85 to charities in the past 12 months. Common activities included collection boxes, with 70% of retailers having them in-store, local sports team sponsorships (48%) and selling tickets for charity events and raffles (46%).

However, the money raised is just the beginning of the commitment independent retailers make to their local communities. More than 10,000 stores are donating goods to local foodbanks and 2,840 are also a foodbank collection point.

In more than 5,000 stores, staff are volunteering during working hours and at least 11,366 charity events were organised in stores.

Responding to the findings, minister for local growth Jake Berry said: “Our local shops and businesses are the cornerstone of our communities. They don’t just create jobs and growth in our town centres, they also define the character of our neighbourhoods.

“Through their support for local causes and charities, these businesses create tremendous social capital, strengthening our local communities and changing people’s lives for the better.”

Shadow secretary of state for business Rebecca Long Bailey said small, independent businesses are “the backbone of our economy” and told Retail Express: “These findings reinforce what many of us already know – that independent, community-based retailers make a positive impact on both our local communities and our local economies.”  

Londis retailers topped the table of community funding with an average of £2,517 raised per store. Brand director Martin Swadling said it recognises the importance of strong links with the community and added: “We take real pride that our stores are at the very heart of their communities.”

The stats relate to money raised directly by individual stores, but symbol groups like Spar, which raised an additional half a million a year for the NSPCC, and Nisa’s Making a Difference Locally, which donated more than £7.5m since 2008, are spreading the good work of convenience stores further.

Goods and services sold by stores take the total even higher, with National Lottery ticket sales through independent retailers generating £300m for good causes this year.

How retailers supported their communities in 2017

What comes from the heart, goes to the heart

Abdul Arain, owner of Al-Amin Supermarket in Cambridge ran for the chancellorship of Cambridge University with a community focused campaign, and plays a leading role in his local community.

He commented: “Independent retailers play apart in their communities whether on school boards or in fundraising because we live in the communities. Like everyone else it’s our responsibility to invest in it and play our part, in order to all reap the rewards. Multiples may try and copy us but what comes from the heart goes to the heart and the public won’t be fooled.”

Bringing residents together

Nainesh Shah, owner of Mayhew Newsagents in Mayfair London started a street party that has raised £1.5m for charity and “broke the ice” between neighbours.

He told Retail Express: “What started as an attempt to grow our footfall when the auction houses moved away has grown tremendously into an international event that brings together a community of residents and ex-residents from all around the world for one day a year. It’s a lot of work, but the money raised makes it all worthwhile.”

Christmas meal on us

Anna Patel from Star News in Nottingham began hosting an annual Christmas meal after realising many customers feel isolated over Christmas.

She said: “When we realised many of our customers had nowhere to go over Christmas we knew we had to do something.

This year’s will be our third event and we’ll be hosting 85 people. As a newsagent you have to be at the counter every day and that means being there for the community every day too.”

Do it: read how one retailer raised more than the average store’s yearly donations in just one day