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Shetlanders encouraged to buy local

by Promote Shetland -

Now that retail and hospitality is back open for business, islanders are being urged to support the economy by spending locally.

Four months ago, it was business as usual in Shetland. Spring was in the air, the first cruise ships were on their way and the shops, restaurants and cafes were gearing up for a busy tourist season. Then came coronavirus, and almost overnight life as we knew it was flipped upside down.

Some businesses closed their doors almost immediately, furloughed staff and waited to see when they could safely return to work. Others, were quick to adapt, shifting their focus online and setting up home delivery and click and collect services.

Now, as we slowly ease our way out of lockdown, our independent shops and businesses need your support more than ever. Money spent in local shops keeps that money in the Shetland economy. Buying food and drink produced here is good for the environment too, because the goods don’t have to travel miles to reach your plate, meaning less fuel-intensive transportation.

To encourage Shetlanders to shop locally as much as possible, Promote Shetland has launched a short video, in partnership with Shetland Food and Drink. It features a number of local producers and retailers, including John-Martin Tulloch from Island Fish, Stuart Fox from The Dowry, Eric Graham from Gremista Farm, Hazel Mackenzie from Mackenzie’s Farm Shop, Fiona Nicholson at Shetland Farm Dairies and the Sandwick Baking Company.

The video also features Nicola and Magnus Johnston, owners of the Island Larder, which opened on Lerwick’s Commercial Street last month – a grocery shop specialising in local produce.

“There’s so much that Shetland has to offer. We’d like to be able to showcase that and give people the option to buy local,” said Magnus, in a recent interview with Taste of Shetland. “There used to be butchers, bakers, fishmongers on the street – it’s changed but we’re trying to bring a little bit of that back.”

“This is such a hard time for everybody and especially small businesses, and now we need to support each other more than ever,” added Nicola.

Outside of Lerwick, islanders have relied more than ever on community shops to keep them stocked up with food and groceries during lockdown. Stores like Yell’s Aywick Shop, which sells everything from fresh meat, bread, fruit and veg to gifts, wool and toys have been busier than ever.

“We’ve been working late every night on deliveries,” said shop owner, Mary Nicolson. “We’ve had orders from across Yell and from Fetlar and Unst, too. We’ve even sent orders to Brae and Lerwick. Local produce has been in huge demand, particularly groceries like eggs, meat and bakery items, but also things like Shetland wool, which people couldn’t source elsewhere.”

Deliveries continue to be popular, despite the shop reopening a couple of weeks ago. “People are wearing their masks and sanitising their hands and being really respectful of the rules. Everyone is taking it seriously because nobody wants to get coronavirus,” continued Mary.

This is such a hard time for everybody and especially small businesses, and now we need to support each other more than ever

Another business that's continued to be busy is Island Fish, which also switched to a delivery service during lockdown. Owner John-Martin Tulloch is hopeful that sales of his produce will continue as things get back to normality. Speaking to Taste of Shetland, he said: “Hopefully folk will see this as a bit of a reset button, going back to local suppliers and the peerie guys rather than just depending on supermarkets, getting all the fresh stuff locally.”

While Shetland reopens to tourism from this week, businesses have a lot of catching up to do, particularly those that had no option but to close during lockdown. That’s why it’s more important than ever for islanders to support Shetland’s economy where they can.

“Choosing to buy local has a widespread impact on the local community,” explained Emma Miller, project manager at Living Lerwick. “By keeping our money local, we are supporting small businesses to provide goods and services as well as employment. £10 spent in a local shop is reinvested in our local economy through wages, local taxes and purchasing from other local suppliers. Spending that same £10 with an online multi-national company brings no benefit to Shetland. For example, when was the last time Amazon gave our community a contribution for a sports club or school raffle?

“The small business owners who have shops in the town centre and rural areas provide a friendly face to face service all year round. Recently they have gone above and beyond expectations by providing delivery or non-contact collection services for food and other items – often working additional hours with less or minimal income."

The push to support our local economy extends beyond Shetland too, with Visit Scotland’s ‘Take Five for Tourism’ campaign urging all Scots to support local tourism through five simple actions. This includes taking a trip, enjoying a staycation, eating out, visiting a tourist experience or attraction, and shopping locally.

So, where possible, please support Shetland’s businesses and buy locally; just don’t forget to remember the FACTS:

  • Face coverings in enclosed spaces
  • Avoid crowded places
  • Clean your hands and surfaces regularly
  • Two-metre social distancing
  • Self-isolate and book a test if you develop coronavirus symptoms
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