STP's Chief Officer, Phil Prentice, has written a blog for the Scottish Centre for Regional Inclusive Growth about the critical importance of supporting local and independent businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond.
For so many, it’s always the most important time of the year. But I doubt there has ever been a more critical Christmas for Scotland’s remarkable local businesses and the communities they serve.
They need our support more than ever as the people behind them work innovatively and tirelessly to weather the once unthinkable challenges they are being forced to face as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Thankfully, there have never been more ways in which as consumers we can give these businesses our backing, whether that be in person, via gift cards or online.
Research by the Scotland Loves Local campaign, which the team here at Scotland’s Towns Partnership are proud to lead with the support of the Scottish Government, found that just over two-thirds of local businesses now have the capacity to take online orders, with a quarter of them having developed that since lockdown in the spring.
This is something that shoppers are increasingly aware of with 68% of those questioned by our researchers in a poll saying they would do some Christmas shopping from stores found on their high street when able to when buying online.
Of course, that support is not just needed for shops, but for so many other enterprises across our communities – cafes, restaurants, hotels, cinemas and other leisure attractions, all of whom have developed initiatives and packages to provide great gift options for local people this Christmas.
The reasons for thinking local first, as the Scotland Loves Local campaign champions, are straightforward, yet powerful. If embraced, they can help shape a more sustainable future for our towns, supporting jobs, creating stronger economies where so much more of our wealth is retained locally.
The fact of the matter is this: Money that’s spent locally stays local for longer. Every pound that’s spent locally flips six times in the area’s economy. For example, a green grocer who buys from a nearby producer who gets his meat from the local butcher, who purchases gifts from the neighbouring shop, whose owner meets their friends in a nearby cafe, whose proprietor goes to classes at the local leisure centre.
And this is a point which carries more purpose than ever as we live more of our lives locally as a result of Covid-19. For if there is a positive which has emerged from the pandemic it is the community spirit which is seeing us through it, giving us all greater appreciation for the shops and services on our doorstep which have been there for us like never before.
This appreciation should provide firm foundations for a future which has localism at its heart; a fairer society in which there is less commuting, a reduced carbon footprint, more resilient local supply chains and greater connections with our local greenspaces.
But to achieve that longer term vision, we need the immediate support for our local businesses to ensure they can continue to be there for us. Our plea in that respect is simple: If you can, buy more local, less global this Christmas.
Supporting local businesses really is the gift that keeps on giving. It’s an investment in the future. Please make sure your community benefits from your festive shopping.