BUSINESS FOCUS: Shop local to both protect and enhance local communities over the festive season
With Christmas just around the corner I’m sticking to tradition and using this column to encourage everyone to shop locally. Boring? No! Keeping our trade local is vital.
Local, independent businesses provide the goods and services and social contact that we all rely on to make life pleasant, not least the elderly, and they obviously provide many full and part-time jobs to boot. But there’s more, for if we are to reverse the serious demographic decline that’s afflicting most of the Highlands (aging and declining populations), then we must retain more young people and attract young families to move in. And for that to happen communities must be great places to live, work and play. It’s no surprise that that is precisely what small, independent businesses do, whether they be in retail, hospitality or trade. They provide the colour and the glue that makes life in communities enjoyable and holds them together.
So, while it can be simple to order online, please think of the consequences for your community: in the vast majority of instances your money goes out of the Highlands and is lost forever. Meanwhile, the Highlands is packed full of businesses selling all sorts of really useful and/or desirable products, generally at great value-for-money prices. Shop locally where possible, and your money supports local families – owners and staff – and it continues to circulate within the Highlands for a long time. Not only that, but you are sustaining businesses whose loss would really damage the quality of life that many enjoy, perhaps even you!
But gamekeepers can also be poachers. I meet more and more Highland business owners who sell online nationally or internationally to boost much-needed sales, especially in the fallow winter period, partly because doing so enables them to keep staff on year-round. It’s much easier to retain existing staff members than recruit new.
So, at this very difficult post-Brexit/post-pandemic/time of international tension, when many businesses are seeing so-so sales and massively increased costs and squeezed margins, the message to us all is simple – use them or lose them – and beware the consequences if they go!
David Richardson is Highlands and Islands development manager for the Federation of Small Businesses.