By Scott Wright

A FAMILY-RUN outdoor clothing retailer with stores in two of Scotland’s most popular tourist towns has warned “unhelpful rhetoric” towards visitors from England will hamper the recovery from the coronavirus crisis.

There have been calls from some quarters in recent days for the border between Scotland and England to be closed amid fears people travelling from the south following the easing of lockdown measures could lead to the virus spreading north.

Liz Geddes, who co-founded the CCW retail chain with husband Bill 35 years ago, emphasised the importance of making shops safe for all visitors, but she declared: “Some of the rhetoric against the English does not help. Our business is built on English and European visitors coming to Scotland and we make them welcome. We would not be in business if it were not for the English visitors.”

Ms Geddes added: “We are all in this together. We need English visitors to come to Scotland and feel welcome.”

CCW specialises in premium outdoor clothing and has stores in Callander, St Andrews and in the west end of Glasgow.

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Mr Geddes declared that the coronavirus crisis has been the “biggest challenge” ever faced by the retailer, which recently reopened its stores in accordance with Scottish Government guidance. CCW has taken the unprecedented step of slashing prices during what is normally its peak trading months in a bid to make up for lost time.

With only a short window left to sell spring and summer stock before autumn and winter lines arrive, CCW has cut prices by 20 per cent.

Ms Geddes said: “We have a sale at the moment, which we have never done before. We need to move that stock out, because in another two weeks’ time our autumn winter stock starts to come in, which we are committed to.”

Mr Geddes said the sale is an attempt to recoup four months’ of lost revenue. But he remains concerned that footfall in Callander, where the CCW has a restaurant on the upper floor, and St Andrews remains “absolutely dire” amid continuing restrictions on international travel.

The store in St Andrews is usually boosted in summer when the parents of overseas students descend and buy clothes for their children before term starts, but that market will not be there this year.

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Asked if the full reopening of the Scottish tourism industry on July 15 will make a difference, amid an expected uplift in staycations, Mr Geddes replied: “[Given] the nature of our business, we have to be optimistic. We are hoping that hotels, restaurants, beer gardens or pubs being open will bring in more people.

“St Andrews is reliant on overseas visitors… [but] there is nothing in St Andrews. It is the same in Callander.

“There is no tourism until the English come, if they can or want to. So we are hoping the 15th is a kick, and it should be. Normally July, August and September are the key months for this company, other than Christmas. We are hopeful the 15th of July is better.”

Ms Geddes emphasised that the spending power of overseas visitors was crucial to the business, noting that tourists from Europe were generally more willing to buy clothes at their full prices than their UK counterparts.

She said: “That is why the retail industry is in the mess it is in, is because of discounting online. There should be room for both, but unfortunately it is a free-for-all online. If you have got a warehouse with minimum staff, you do not have the same overheads [as shops] with well-trained staff and lovely shops.”

CCW has issued a rallying call for UK customers to get behind domestic businesses this summer. Mr Geddes said: “Our pubs and stores will only survive if we rally round and show our support this summer.”

The husband and wife team runs CCW alongside daughter Emily and son Ross, who also have senior roles in the business. Investment has been made to ensure the shops are safe for customers with the installation of hand sanitising stations and Perspex screens. Employees wear face masks and carry hand sanitiser and disinfectant.