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Residents in Highland town urged to shop local as businesses welcome back customers

By Donald Wilson

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Provost Laurie Fraser of Pat Fraser Electrical Shop.
Provost Laurie Fraser of Pat Fraser Electrical Shop.

Nairn Provost Laurie Fraser has called on residents to get behind local businesses as they open their doors for

customers for the first time this year.

Behind the scenes, the Nairn Business Improvement District (BID) team has been working hard to ensure the town centre will be a more welcoming place in the weeks and months to come as coronavirus-related restrictions are eased.

Lots of premises have had their frontages re-decorated through a BID-sponsored scheme, and a range of other improvements, including benches and floral displays, are planned.

Provost Fraser said: "It has been a hard time for businesses, but everyone is glad to be back. They all have their own story to tell, and some have shown tremendous resilience to get through this.

"The people of Nairn have supported many businesses throughout the pandemic, but for many shops they simply have been unable to trade.

"I would urge the public, more than ever, to shop local and help these shops and services we value get back on their feet."

Lucy Harding.
Lucy Harding.

BID manager Lucy Harding said there were truly inspiring stories about how traders, caterers and service providers had adapted to survive the lockdown.

She felt the shop local message was carrying weight.

"It has been tough on all of the town’s businesses, particularly as we are a tourist town and we rely on visitors," she said.

"However, hopefully the end is in sight.

"We have heard truly inspiring stories from our businesses who have all had to adapt, and while I suspect many of them are exhausted, they keep going.

"Nairn BID has been supporting the businesses in many ways. From simple things like sharing their news on our social media channels, to bigger projects such as offering grants for shop-front painting, makeovers in the town centre and promenade areas of the seafront, and we erected a number of banners encouraging people to shop local.

"There is also the #ProtectHighland test and protect app that businesses can use for free.

"Nairn BID is very pleased that the town is now open for business. It feels vibrant and busy once again and that is how we like it."

Iona Hampson of Crafty Wee Birdie.
Iona Hampson of Crafty Wee Birdie.

Iona Hampson, of Crafty Wee Birdie gift shop, said: "I was so excited to be opening again.

"I cannot believe that we shut our doors on Christmas Eve and it is only now, four months later, that we can actually have people through the door."

She added that while she is fearful of another lockdown, she is not worried about footfall: "Last year when we reopened after the first lockdown, we were busy with people travelling to Nairn from within Scotland.

"We had so many visitors, the staycation idea really worked for me as a business.

"I am still conscious and concerned there could be another lockdown, but we have to just keep going."

Samantha Prendeville completely changed the look of her shop, with On The Upside specialising in home décor moving online and the premises becoming Kettle & Cafetiere, selling UK-based artisan tea, coffee and chocolate products people can make at home.

"During the first lockdown I was really intrigued by people and how they were doing business," she said.

"It became clear that people were stuck at home and this was changing people’s habits.

"While open as On The Upside, I was chatting to a guy who had just begun making coffee to stock, and the idea of my new business just spiralled from that."

Paula Trowski of Clarks of Nairn which has been busy since reopening.
Paula Trowski of Clarks of Nairn which has been busy since reopening.

Jim Clark, of Clarks of Nairn, which sells furniture and soft furnishings opened on April 5, and he said while it has been busy, he thinks shoppers were focused on yesterday’s wider lifting of restrictions.

"We have been very lucky with business," he said.

"I think because people have been unable to get away on holiday and have had to stay at home they have chosen to spend money on their homes.

"We are expecting that now everything can open, there may well be another flurry."

Related story: Nairn businesses get aid for spring clean-up

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