By Dr Antoinette Fionda-Douglas for The Herald.
Investing in local is the Christmas gift that keeps giving.
I am obsessed by Christmas and New Year. I love everything about It – the partying with friends and family, the busy high streets and buzz in bars and restaurants. I even adore spending endless hours Christmas-tifying my house. I am already getting ridiculously excited to watch the Christmas episode of Scotland’s Home of the Year.
However, the true essence of my Christmas joy resides in the art of giving. The mindful and thoughtful process of selecting that perfect gift, the meticulous wrapping, and then experiencing the sheer delight in my loved ones’ eyes as they open that perfect present.
Christmas is not just a big event for me personally, as a designer and retailer, it can make or break my business’ year. It is often affectionally referred to as the ‘Golden Quarter’ by the sector. This is on account of a large part of a retailer’s annual sales and profits occurs in the three months before Christmas. Sales during this period can account for between a third and nearly two-thirds of a retailer's annual turnover.
The outlook for this Christmas is looking bleak. According to a survey by YouGov and Retail Week, 45 per cent of UK adults plan to cut their Christmas spending by £280 on average. It is estimated that there will equate to a reduction of £13 billion in UK compared to 2022. The same report showed that due to the cost of living crisis 54 per cent of UK adults are worried about affording Christmas. These statistics are distressing on so many levels. In the longer term, I am concerned for the resultant impact on retailers and the Scottish economy.
The current environment is serving us an unpleasant sickly Christmas cocktail of reduced consumer confidence and spending; the ongoing additional costs of Brexit; increased rents; rates; and services. Ultimately, retailers could be heading for an awful festive season hangover.
As an entrepreneur, I like to remain hopeful. Not blind hope, that it will all work out. Instead hope that those that can, will spend their money wisely, and support small, independent, and local. Not just because the products are better, or they get incredible unique gifts, but because it makes financial sense for the future of our local and national economy.
Buying local is not just about being kind to your local business owners, it is far more strategic than that. Firstly, when you buy local you are boosting the Scottish economy. Research on spending from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) shows that for every £1 spent with a small or medium-sized business 63p stays in the local economy, compared to 40p with a larger business. Shopping with and investing in local businesses means you can have a very strong and positive effect on the health of the local jobs. Buying locally will also help you support local and British entrepreneurs and help re-build our communities in a way that simply huge online companies can’t.
Secondly, bustling, exciting local high streets (which are sadly dying in so many locations across Scotland) add to a sense of community, increase the curb appeal, and frankly add value to the local housing markets. Losing these small independent local stores could potentially de-value your own property.
Thirdly, the local choice is often more ethical and unique. For example, my business Beira, offers radically transparency, and we pay all the garment workers more than a living wage. We also only stock limited editions which means our customers are buying more unique gifts.
So, think carefully about how you spend your money this Christmas. To keep your favourite local stores and Scottish brands in business, you need to support them. So instead, of reaching for your phone and thoughtlessly automatically clicking on those big retailer app – instead consider buying less, buying better, and supporting your local Scottish brands and retailers.
Without doubt, these incredible and innovative local business will have something unique and wonderful for you to gift your loved ones, this Christmas. You won’t just be making your favourite people in the world happy from your thoughtful gifts, you will be helping keep a local salesperson in a job and ensure stores on your local high streets can stay open. I can assure you from personal experience, that the owner of that business will be doing a little happy dance over each, and every sale - it really does mean that much.
When you buy locally, it is the gift that keeps giving. You positively impact our local economy, our Scottish high streets, the job market, and the environment. You are in fact giving the ultimate gift to your local and Scottish retail community – a future.