This was a make or break Christmas for many of our local companies AFTER an extremely difficult year.
Unfortunately, because of the relaxation of restrictions on domestic visits over Christmas, the firms, the economy and the jobs they sustain are far from out of the woods, with the possibility that we will be trapped at Level 3 for at least most of January.
The Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce launched an initiative six months ago to help “support local.”
North East Now was born from an immediate need to help corporations deal with the crippling financial effects of the corona virus in our cities and towns.
The aim was to restore customer confidence and demand by placing a lot of excellent data in one central location and make it easier for everyone to do their part and get the regional economy back on its feet.
We didn’t know how long it would take, we just knew it was needed when the website went live in June.
It offers information about what local items are available in shops and supermarkets, and makes it easy for customers to select Northeast brands every week when they shop. It includes small business sections and those supporting local provenance and operating in food and beverage, shopping, well-being, lifestyle, fashion and beauty.
It connects to a range of directories, news posts, blogs and inspirational stories from around the community and is designed to inspire individuals to think about other ways in the weeks and months ahead they can help the local economy.
And in droves, they did. The website was visited by thousands of people and hundreds more shared encouraging comments on social media, became fans of their local shopping streets and helped spread the word about great independent local retailers.
As we approach the end of 2020, the sense of solidarity we saw in the early months of the outbreak, coming together to help each other, is more important than ever.
For far from usual but passable Christmas shopping numbers, retailers in our city centers and towns had braced themselves, but found that about half of their catchment areas have been cut off as people are unable to drive between Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, while several bars and restaurants will remain closed until at least February or longer.
Some might not at all reopen.
For now, service services remain in effect, but they will not offset the expenses of organizations forced to mothball or remain open with small customers. That’s why people in the weeks and months ahead should make one of their New Year’s resolutions to continue to think local.
Please note that our local businesses still need us when restrictions allow, and that it is the blessing of all of us to assist them and the employment they provide.
That said, while it is right to periodically review constraints, it is clear that, in its current form, the strategic structure does not provide the clarity that businesses and their clients need.
A further review of the process urgently needs to be carried out by the Scottish Government.
This review should aim to publish a refreshed business reopening strategy with a consistent timetable for the reopening of key industries, similar to the initial roadmap following the national closure.
As part of the solution to having our economy back on track, our governments need to begin to trust corporations – not as places that are handled
As the source of infection propagation.
The chief executive of the Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce is Russell Borthwick.