Easing of lockdown restrictions welcomed by Inverness business leaders
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BUSINESS leaders in Inverness have welcomed the easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions following recent Scottish Government announcements.
Mike Smith, the manager of Inverness Business Improvement District (BID), said the reopening of large parts of the retail sector was something he and BID members have been longing to see.
“It’s been an extremely difficult time, particularly in the retail sector,” he said.
“Many of the shops have changed their mode of operation and met the challenges that Covid-19 put upon them.”
Looking ahead he said things could only get better as other sectors, such as pubs and restaurants, are also able to resume subject to continued suppression of the virus.
Inverness-based economist Tony Mackay said that the appetite for spending had largely survived the lockdown, despite the fact that only around 10 per cent of city centre shops had remained open.
“The evidence suggests that the retail spending of local people has held up surprisingly well, because of a big switch to online shopping,” he said.
While it still has to be seen whether people will be happy to go back to “real” shops, evidence from England where “non essential” retail has already largely restarted suggests it will indeed be popular.
David Richardson, Highlands and Islands development manager with the Federation of Small Businesses, said the decision to allow non-essential shops with a streetfront entrance to reopen had come not a moment too soon.
He said: “Throughout the Highlands, these shops have followed Scottish Government advice and locked themselves down since late March and – notwithstanding the amazing financial support from governments – many have suffered severely.”
He believes businesses can help themselves persuade customers back through a combination of the very visible compliance with safety measures on the one hand – to provide necessary reassurance – and attractive discounts to locals as an incentive on the other.
“Now is the time to win customers back,” he said.
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