The new Scotland Loves Local campaign urges shoppers to “think local first” to help the nation’s economy recover from the impact of Covid-19. We meet some of the businesses supporting the call to action and learn why supporting town centres is an investment in your community’s future

GRAEME Wilson is absolutely clear in the benefits to everyone that shopping local and supporting local businesses brings.

He owns Creature Comforts, Scotland’s largest independent pet retailer with four stores in the Glasgow area. It is an enterprise he has nurtured over the past 23 years.

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With local trade the lifeblood of his business, he is supporting the new Scotland Loves Local campaign, urging shoppers across the country to think local first to help the nation’s town centres recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Each of the Creature Comfort stores is home to a parrot as its mascot. Graeme features in the multimedia promotion surrounding the campaign from his Milngavie shop, alongside its resident parrot, Rocket.

Urging people to turn to their town centres before travelling further afield or using online retail giants, he says: “People should shop local because we’re able to offer a tailored service.

“The big difference we can offer is advice, a range, we can get things that perhaps bigger shops can’t. We can cater each of our services to our customers individually. A huge thing for us is customer service and being able to help our customers.”

The Scotland Loves Local campaign, spearheaded by Scotland’s Towns Partnership with support from the Scottish Government, aims to remind Scots that town centres aren’t just a series of buildings and pavements - they are made up of people who are part of the fabric of the places in which they live.

It also seeks to harness the compassion and solidarity shown for friends and neighbours during the coronavirus lockdown for them to support local businesses, sustain jobs and fuel the economic recovery from the pandemic in their area.

Many of the people behind local businesses feel a real sense of purpose, supporting communities which are not just places of work, but home.

They include another Milngavie entrepreneur, Eleanor Barron, of Elba. She showcases the work of more than 100 artists, most of them local and friends of hers.

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Originally a jewellery designer, she spent 20 years touring Scotland to different crafting events and when she decided the time was right to open her own shop, there was only one place for it.

“Milngavie is my home town,” she says. “I wanted to showcase the work of Scottish artists here.

“It’s a beautiful, friendly place to live and work - safe and family-orientated. It’s a creative and arty town as well. It’s a clean and beautiful area to live.

“It’s important to shop local and support lots of individual businesses, many of them one-person businesses. You know where the goods have come from when they are made locally.”

Elsewhere in Milngavie, Lorna Quinn, of The Dress Shop and Altered Images, has been in business in the town for 25 years and features in the campaign.

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The mum-of-two says: “It’s important that people do shop locally because we need the support of the community. We’re here for the community.”

The positive return for the community - economically and socially - is something that Paisley businessman Gary McCaw, who was born and raised in the town, is certain about.

He owns Bianco Nero in the town centre and is among the countless businesses nationwide which has innovated to weather the coronavirus storm. As lockdown struck, he moved to a 100 per cent takeaway model with online deliveries.

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With shops and eateries reopening, he urged locals to continue supporting traders in the town, adding: “Local companies generally employ and invest in the local labourforce. They generally buy local more so that’s why it’s important for you to buy local.”

It’s a message reinforced by another entrepreneur whose roots are firmly planted in the town.

Paisley University graduate Laura Bell had only reopened one of her shops, IVAD Gifts, for six days following a refurbishment before lockdown struck. She is among those who have pushed their online offering to continue trading, posting gifts to people worldwide.

“People should shop local because the money is reinvested in the local area - it stays in the town,” she says. “It’s nice to keep in the community spirit.”

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In every one of the country’s town centres, investments have been made to ensure people can feel confident in going into shops, restaurants, cafes and other enterprises, safe in the knowledge that steps have been taken to ensure all Scottish Government guidelines over hygiene and social distancing are being followed.

Businesses across the country have been working with Business Improvement Districts, Local Authorities and others to put in place arrangements which mean people can shop locally, but safely. These arrangements include the use of screens, distance markers and signage, the provision of hand sanitizer instore and capacity limits.

Members of the St Andrews Business Improvement District (BID) are among those who have been showing their support for the Scotland Loves Local campaign, in tandem with their own Love Local Love St Andrews initiative.

During lockdown in town, companies are among those which have benefited from a Business Improvement District Resilience Fund, while also innovating online and with restaurants providing takeaways - perhaps most notably former Masterchef finalist Dean Banks’ lobster, crab and champagne boxes, which have been delivered UK-wide.

Gallery owner Louise Fraser, who chairs BID St Andrews, says: “We have seen great innovation and collaboration between businesses. In spite of all of the challenges, we have a lot of creative successes, which has been nice to see.

“There’s a real sense at the moment that we’re all in this together. I hope we can maintain that by supporting our local businesses, which is also important for reducing our carbon footprint.”

Businesses in the Highlands are among those which have seen a real shift in the shopping dynamic as they have both innovated to adapt to the circumstances and as shoppers have opted to stay local - a habit they hope will continue.

Nairn Business Improvement District Michael Boylan says: “Now that the efforts of these businesses have been recognised it's time to ensure that they are around for generations to come by continuing to support them and the many local jobs they create.  Continue to shop local, continue to support your community should be a motto that wherever possible, we live by.”

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Local action will benefit our national economy

If there’s a positive which can emerge from the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s a stronger sense of localism.

That’s the hope of Phil Prentice, Chief Officer of Scotland’s Towns Partnership, the organisation spearheading the Scotland Loves Local campaign.

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He says: “The compassion and solidarity for our friends and neighbours which has been shown in every community in Scotland during lockdown has been inspirational. We have seen a greater appreciation for localism, which we must now harness to build stronger communities for our future. Our national economy will benefit from this.

“The difference you can make in your community and the people who live and work around you by thinking local first should not be underestimated. Spending locally is a tremendous force for good.

“Through the Scotland Loves Local campaign, we want to not only encourage people to use the businesses in their town centre only now, but always. By prioritising spending in your community, you can help achieve this.

“As we work our way out of the coronavirus crisis, we have an opportunity not just to support those around us through the immediate impact of the disruption we have seen, but lay the foundations for our town centres of the future, ensuring they are vibrant, sustainable and there for you.”

A clear message from Scotland Loves Local is that the support shown for local businesses should be in line with the Scottish Government’s public health guidelines.

“It’s vital that we all adhere to the rules that are in place and the measures which have been taken in individual businesses to keep us all safe,” adds Mr Prentice. “While supporting local businesses, we must not lose sight of our responsibility to suppress Covid-19 in our communities. It’s in all of our interests.”