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Nicky Marr: Shop local this Christmas, it can make a difference

By Nicky Marr

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The sought after trainers
The sought after trainers

I’d been coveting that pair of trainers for months. Raspberry suede, with three distinctive white stripes, I’d first seen them in a Facebook ad.

Having clicked the ad, the trainers started stalking me, popping up every time I logged on. I gave in. I wanted them. But I’d waited too long; they were sold out, seemingly everywhere.

The company website had no idea when they’d be back in stock. Amazon didn’t have them in my size, neither did ASOS. eBay had a couple of pairs, but they were listed at double the RRP. I walked away.

In Eastgate in Inverness to get my Covid vaccine, I popped into Schuh, on the off chance. And there they were, sitting gloriously, on the shelf. I snapped them up.

It’s a salutary lesson. I like to think of myself as an advocate for the #shoplocal movement, but clearly, I’ve fallen for the lure of the internet as badly as the rest of us. I’d slipped into believing that online was better, with greater choice, and the convenience of having everything I might ever need delivered at the click of a button. How wrong. How very wrong.

And if the trainers on my feet aren’t proof enough of my folly, or of the riches that can be found in proper shops, three things have happened in the last week alone to reset my thinking.

The first was last Monday’s Inverness City Centre Business Awards. It seemed ridiculously decadent to be at the Drumossie Hotel on a Monday. Dinner was delicious, but the highlights were – of course – the awards. Celebrating four shortlisted businesses in each of 18 categories really highlighted the breadth of quality businesses in the city centre.

Cafés, restaurants, and bars all provide things that we can’t get online, as do beauty and hair salons and professional services businesses. They were all celebrated, alongside gift, food, book and clothes shops, some brand new, others that have been the beating heart of Inverness since the ‘60s and ‘70s. They all deserve our support.

The second thing to change my mind was a dinner at Pittodrie House Hotel with some members of Inverurie BID. We Are Inverurie are similarly proud of their town’s vibrant high street and have just launched a local e-commerce app called Lokali, which levels the playing field for Inverurie shops against online giants.

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Shoppers can browse by store or category, or type what they are looking for in the search bar. The benefits will be increased local spend, with quality independents and locally based nationals. It’s an absolute win for the community.

And the third thing? A reminder of the marvellous array of local food and drink, high-quality clothing, and beautiful homeware at Spey Valley Shopping in the MacDonald Aviemore Resort. I was there last Saturday to host a Highland News & Media subscriber cooking demonstration, with MasterChef finalist Sarah Rankin, and Aviemore executive chef Ed Blackwell. After the food, a chance to shop. Readers, I took that chance. I’ll be back again before Christmas.

Shopping locally puts money into local pockets, supports families, and keeps our high streets vibrant, attractive, and welcoming places. Its impact isn’t to be underestimated. And local can mean different things to different communities.

A dozen of us were away last weekend, at a self-catering house near Loch Shin. Instead of doing a massive Tesco-sweep in Inverness before we left, we gave our shopping list to the village store, and picked it up on our way. £200 to the village shop was better than £200 to Tesco.

As online retailers ramp-up the pressure to buy, buy lots, and buy now, in the run-up to Black Friday, I invite you to pause, and look again at your high street. Your perception of what’s actually available might have been skewed – as mine was – by pressure from online.

Shop local this Christmas. Use it or lose it. I consider myself warned.

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