Brits consider hairdressers to be the friendliest small businesses on the high street – along with coffee shops, corner shops, and newsagents. A survey of 2,000 UK adults also found 35 percent consider at least one independent shop owner as a pal – with the local pub, fish and chip shop, restaurant, and butcher also making the top 10.
Half of respondents claim to be able to speak to people who work on the high street about something personal – with hairdressers, beauty salons, and bar staff topping the list of employees people feel able to trust.
And 23 percent of those who trust these people would confide in them more than their neighbours – and 21 percent more than their partner.
But conversations with high-street businesses have changed a lot over the past year, with 36 percent talking more about energy prices than before the recent crisis.
And 22 percent have these discussions with local firms at least once a week.
Rising costs (40 percent) and soaring energy prices (40 percent) come up in conversation more frequently than holiday plans (37 percent), nights out (nine percent), and relationship woes (seven percent).
A further 30 percent said they had never discussed energy with local business owners before the cost-of-living crisis – but now it’s the topic they discuss the most.
Victoria Bacon, director of Smart Energy GB, which commissioned the research, said: “We know how important local businesses are to communities up and down the country, and that the energy crisis is affecting them, as well as households.
“Even small things can save a company money in the long run – whether it’s turning off appliances at the wall when they’re not in use, or getting a smart meter installed for your business.”
And when it comes to advice, 55 percent say that they’ve been offered helpful tips on at least one area of life when talking to people who work in local businesses – with more than one in ten (12 percent) saying it’s their hairdresser who has been the most useful with their wise words.
In a separate survey of 500 SMEs, more than 89 percent feel they have done as much as they can to reduce their energy costs.
However, 76 percent said they would welcome more advice and support on how to reduce their bills.
And of those who regularly interact with their customers, 75 percent have seen them become increasingly anxious about their budgets when spending with their business, and 28 percent think they are visiting less as a result, according to the stats by OnePoll.
While half of local business owners were aware of smart meters as a useful tool for monitoring how much power they use at home, 58 percent also realise they could be used by small businesses to help keep on top of energy costs at work.
And 41 percent of those who have a smart meter at home and work said the data they get from it has helped them to better control their energy usage and bills – while 35 percent said it was useful for planning their future cashflow.
Smart Energy GB has produced a new Smart Meters for Small Businesses guide, which is available today.
Victoria Bacon added: “Small business owners are working really hard to manage energy costs.
“Something they can also do both at home and at work, for many at no extra cost, is get a smart meter installed, which can give them visibility and control over their energy use.
“This means they know what they are spending on their energy before they receive their bill, which can help with financial planning and cashflow.
“To find out if your business is eligible for a smart meter, contact your energy supplier.”