PICTURES: 'It's good to be back!' - Ross-shire traders get down to business after latest lockdown as Covid-19 restrictions are eased
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WELCOME back — and please shop locally!
That's the simple message from traders in Ross-shire's county town this week as businesses battle to bounce back after a horrendous year dominated by the coronavirus crisis.
Local councillors backed the call in Dingwall with Margaret Paterson saying: "It is heart-warming to see lights on the whole length of the High Street. Most of the shops are very busy with people queueing outside. Our High Street is where you meet your friends and neighbours. If we lose it, we lose a sense of belonging. It really is the heartbeat of the community."
Cllr Alister Mackinnon said people had shopped locally during the pandemic and urged them to continue now when businesses need support.
Cllr Graham Mackenzie said: "It is great to see people back on the High Street and I am very pleased for all the businesses in the town who have suffered so much. I hope the people of Dingwall will continue to shop locally and have the confidence to come out in a safe and secure environment. As time goes on I am sure that Dingwall will not just recover but prosper and grow."
Greg Cormack from Cormack's and Crawford's said getting back was "superb".
He said: "It was great to be back in the shop and seeing our colleagues for the first time.And it was great to be able to see our customers and serve them. People were needing a variety of things such as shoes, trainers and of course the knitters needed their new wool.
"Over the lockdown we assisted customers who contacted us, and made arrangements to get items to them. That worked well, but nothing is as good as the real thing of serving customers."
A newcomer to the High Street, Jordan Milliken of Kaputt Coffee, had had a baptism of fire since opening last year. Offering a takeaway service from the door, he is grateful to "regulars" for their support. He said: "Things are going really well. There are still a few changes we need to make indoors to allow us to have a few seats inside.
"I have a lot of regulars and we see the same 20-30 faces every day, six days a week. I am very grateful for each and every one of them."
Alchemist Gallery owner Hazel Gordon had a great first day on Monday but said the rules on who could run a "click and collect" service meant local businesses were coming from behind.She said: "We were stopped from providing a click and collect service, and that meant those bigger businesses, who may or may not pay tax in this country, were able to get a hold in the market that was not available to small or independent traders.
"It simply was not fair on independent business.But, I have been superbly supported by local people. Those people who met me in the street and said they were looking forward to getting back into the shop was a real boost during the lockdown."
Ruth Ross, at Ruth's Foot Clinic said: "It was absolutely fantastic to see people back in the street.We have been exceptionally busy since we decided to open and I hope that will continue."
However, one new business Robert MacLeod at Posterworld, who had only one month of trading before the first lockdown, said it was a slow star.He said: "Monday was terrible, I only had one customer all day."
He has customers from all over the world buying from him online but added: "It is great to be back and open – and I would invite people to pop in and say 'hello'."