Six months ago many local businesses put up signs that read “Closed until further notice”. Tradesmen were not allowed in our houses. Businesses that continued to open had to put strict social distancing measures in place allowing for far fewer footfall. Life changed almost overnight.
We became anxious shoppers. In many cases the local store, butchers and fishmongers became a more appealing prospect than mixing with lots of others in the supermarkets. At a time when face-to-face contact was minimal, the local fishmonger, butcher or store owner was still there for a socially distanced chat and a smile. Those connections were important. Those connections ARE important.
One of the more positive developments arising from this pandemic is that more people have discovered the fantastic produce available in their local shops. Scotland Loves Local** is a nationwide campaign set up, as we come out of lockdown, to remind people to continue to support shops and businesses in their local areas. And with the prospect of recession looming at the time of writing, quite simply if we don’t support them, we are likely to lose them.
Scotland’s food and drink industry is worth £15 million. It is the nation’s biggest manufacturing sector. Throughout the crisis, Scotland’s band of butchers has continued to work, providing customers with high quality fresh meat and importantly supporting local farmers.
New research* has revealed that over three quarters of respondents agree that it is important to continue to support local suppliers as restrictions lessen. The research also revealed that two thirds of people intend to buy more from local suppliers going forward and that a third of people have increased their consumption from local supplier since lockdown began. All of which is encouraging. People seem more concerned with traceability since lockdown began with 62% of those surveyed saying they have become more aware where their food has come from.
The move to use the local supply chain not only benefits us locally, but also globally. Reducing food miles and buying from more sustainable producers is a shift that can reduce our carbon footprint. Despite the pandemic taking up every news channel, the climate emergency still must be addressed.
But it’s not just the statistics that matter. Local business owners provided countless stories of community togetherness and innovative and inspiring ideas during lockdown. Many restaurants quickly converted their business to enable takeaway and/or delivery services. Butchers, fishmongers, pharmacy workers and others often went above and beyond delivering orders to shielding customers. A local Airbnb business in Bridge of Weir opened their house to NHS staff free of charge. The Advertizer printed hundreds of “Are You Self-Isolating? I Can Help.” slips for local community groups to use.
All of this goes to show that our high streets and local places of business are not just made up of bricks and mortar, they are comprised of people, relationships and compassion. To put it simply, when we needed them, they were there for us. Now, more than ever, they need us. Now it is our turn to help. #ScotlandLovesLocal #KeepingItLocal
*carried out by Censuswide on behalf of Scotch Lamb PGI – published in the Herald on August 1, 2020.
**see more about Scotland Loves Local on page 12