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Highlands Gift Card could encourage tourism to the area and remind people to shop local, say Nairn business owners

By Rachel Smart

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Dan and Elle Tyler from Airts and Pairts.
Dan and Elle Tyler from Airts and Pairts.

Over 120 businesses are part of the Highlands Gift Card, including around 30 Nairn businesses.

The gift card can be spent like a debit card on shopping, leisure and attractions, accommodation, food and drink, health and beauty and services.

The usefulness of the Highlands Gift Card in attracting both ‘home-town’ tourists and those from further afield.

It has been praised by tour firm, Airts & Pairts in Nairn. Co-owner Elle Tyler said: “The Highlands Gift Card is such a brilliant thing. It gives local people an opportunity to showcase what they offer, and for people to realise what we have here in the area. Yes, Amazon is available, but you can get everything you need on the high street. The way we see it is: do you want to buy from an anonymous online retailer, or do you want to buy local, where you get a huge smile with your purchase?

“For us, the Highlands Gift Card is about collaboration, and sharing the love and warmth of the community that you get when you shop local. If you don’t know what to get someone as a gift, or you’re buying for someone that has everything, you give them a Scotland Loves Local Gift Card and they have a huge choice.

“People can use their Highlands Gift Card for a holiday in Nairn, have a great time at the beach, go on a tour of the Highlands, eat at local cafés and restaurants and visit our very special little shops. Nairn makes a great hub to explore what is in and around Nairn, like it's fairy-tale castles, gardens and battlefields. Equally, people can use the card to become a home-town tourist. It’s often the case that we’ve been to lots of places around the world, but never really discovered our own area.

“The Highlands Gift Card is like the golden ticket to the Highlands and it supports the whole idea of the circular economy. It’s also an amazing opportunity for businesses to be a part of the Highlands Gift Card, giving them a route to market, access to new customers and a new way to promote themselves, all for free.

“If we don’t support local, we won’t have a beautiful high street anymore, and we’ll lose so much knowledge as well as those local, hand-crafted, unique items. The pandemic was very unkind to our businesses but with the new Highlands Gift Card, our community spirit can really grow.”

The potential of the card to encourage tourism has also been highlighted by Anika Schulz, owner of Cawdor House and Café Lavender, who are part of the Highlands Gift Card:

“Cawdor House is a small boutique hotel and Café Lavender is a café with a German bakery, and both are fully licensed. The hotel has been open since 2016 and the café opened in 2020. I think the Highlands Gift Card is a really good idea because when you give a gift, it’s nice to give people a flexible choice on where to spend it. The gift card will encourage people to be experimental and try businesses or experiences they haven’t tried before. It could also encourage tourism. We have the most wonderful nature in the Highlands, a lovely and welcoming atmosphere and a lot of really individual businesses to experience.

Anika and Andreas Schulz, owners of Cafe Lavender and Cawdor House.
Anika and Andreas Schulz, owners of Cafe Lavender and Cawdor House.

“When people spend their Highlands Gift Card at Cawdor House, they get a unique experience and a personal welcome. The produce we serve is local, organic, and on the healthier side, so homemade breads, fresh eggs and fruit from local farms. My husband Andreas is an artist, so his photography is displayed around the hotel.

“It’s a quirky hotel, offering something different, and there’s a real soul in the house. I think the important thing is being authentic in what you’re offering. Tourists could visit any part of the Highlands and have a completely different experience each time. We make sure guests receive lots of information about the local area, about the restaurants and the places to visit, we have to work together.

“People can also spend their gift card at Café Lavender. I think people feel at home in the café. In Germany, we have Kaffee and Kuchen, the ritual of meeting friends and family on a Sunday afternoon for coffee and cake, and that’s what we tried to recreate at Café Lavender. People bring a book, or sit in the sunshine in our outdoor garden to chat with friends enjoying German afternoon tea.

“People recognise and realise how important it is to shop local. Everyone wants to have a vibrant town centre, but if we don’t visit our businesses, they won’t survive. The Highlands Gift Card will help to keep money local, and that benefits everyone. Now, we need to raise awareness that the gift card is here, it’s a really nice option for birthdays and other occasions throughout the year.”

Chris Taylor, VisitScotland Regional Leadership Director, said: “As the traditional visitor season gets underway in the Highlands, it is still really important that we help the industry to recover by supporting local tourism businesses who have been hit hard by COVID-19 over the last two years.

“I would hope the Highland Gift Card would encourage people – both visitors and locals - to get out and about in Nairn and the surrounding area and perhaps spend money in places they haven’t previously visited. They could take a trip, a day visit or a meal out and become a tourist in their own region to help these vital tourism businesses recover.

“The tourism sector is one of the most important sectors in the North of Scotland and tourism is a positive force in the region – it brings in money, creates jobs and underpins many of the services that we all rely on.”

Another Nairn business who has signed up to accept the Nairn Gift Card is SKY Delights. Dr Sam Young is the owner and said it can remind people to shop local:

“I started SKY Delights in 2010 and sell a wide range of organic, vegetarian and specialist fine foods and drinks as well as food supplements, toiletries and cleaning products. Nairn previously had a deli and health food shop, and after taking voluntary redundancy, I wanted to create a place where people could continue to buy healthy, ethical goods locally.

“Lockdown was a boost for us as a business. A lot of people found us that didn’t realise we were here in Nairn. Some folk now are going back to work and are going back to old shopping habits, but many have stuck with us. We have a committed group of regulars that continue to use our free Friday delivery service, via pushbike.

Dr Sam Young, founder of SKY Delights.
Dr Sam Young, founder of SKY Delights.

“The main reason I signed up for the Highlands Gift Card is because I think it’s an ideal gift for people who live in the town, and for those visiting the Highlands on holiday. The tourism side is important. I notice that when the campsites are open, we get valuable new customers coming in because they’ve forgotten something or want to try something new.

“The Highlands Gift Card is a great idea. Fundamentally, if we don’t use our local businesses they will disappear and we will lose the town centre as a hub. The broader remit of a shop like mine is that it connects people. I advertise different local events, introduce customers to other customers and recommend other businesses. And I know that other shops do the same. If people stop shopping locally, then they would miss that connection.

“The Highlands Gift Card can remind people to shop locally. As well as being used as gifts, it can also work for people that want to allocate their spending, or plan ahead. If businesses close, then it’s unlikely that another will open selling something similar. I think when people actually do shop locally, they realise that the price is very similar to online options; but with us you also get advice from a real person who has probably used the product, knows its attributes, and appreciates how other customers find it.”

Nairn Business Improvement District is driving the Highlands Gift Card in Nairn. Lucy Harding, Nairn BID Manager said: “I’m really proud of all of the businesses who have signed up to the Highlands Gift Card. As a BID, our mission is supporting local as much as possible, and the gift card works alongside that. Nairn is very much a tourist resort, just 20 minutes from Inverness Airport and having our own gift card will bring people to the area. But as well as tourism, it’s about showing our support for the small businesses in Nairn. The challenges to businesses aren’t over, from covid to fears about rising gas and electricity prices. Nairn is a hidden gem, and through the Highlands Gift Card, we can share what makes Nairn special.”

The Highlands Gift Card was introduced by the Scottish Government as part of a landmark move to give every region in Scotland the opportunity to introduce its own local gift card, delivered by Scotland’s Town Partnership (STP) and Perth based fintech Miconex.

STP chief-officer Phil Prentice said: “Tourism is vital for the success and prosperity of our Scottish towns, and it is fantastic to see businesses in Nairn getting behind the Highlands Gift Card so we can remind people what’s right here on their doorsteps in Scotland.”

Colin Munro, managing director of Miconex said: “With over 120 businesses registered as part of the Highlands Gift Card, this local card is an attractive customer proposition, it’s something that people will want to buy and receive, because of the huge choice on offer through the card. It’s free for businesses to be a part of the Highlands Gift Card, and it’s as easy to accept as any other card payment.”

Highlands businesses wishing join the Highlands Gift Card can register to accept the card for free at: https://lovelocal.scot/giftcard/. To find out more about the Highlands Gift Card and where it can be spent, please visit https://scotlandgiftslocal.com and https://scotlandgiftslocal.com/nairn/

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