Retail Royce: Moray businesses battling against the tide

A warm welcome to Royce Clark, owner of Grampian Furnishers, who today launches a regular look at business and retail challenges facing Moray.

Elgin hardest hit by recent shop closures
Elgin hardest hit by recent shop closures

JANUARY IS PERHAPS the hardest month for us all, having overspent and over indulged during the festivities most of us are glad to get the cold first month of 2016 done and dusted with a much needed injection of cash when the monthly salary drops into our banks.

For business it’s particularly tough especially retail. January sales now all start in December and the Boxing Day madness tends only to last until most have to go back to work, so to say trade can be slow in January is a fair assumption for most.

Then we add into the mix the annual corporation tax most have had to pay at the end of December and a looming VAT payment to make at the start of February, which further puts pressure on retailers who are suffering a drop in footfall.

Locally of course we have seen our best known toy shop, Junners, close its doors for one final time – and together with the news that another long term family owned and run business, Café Eccose, formally known as Oliver’s, announced its intention to close in the coming weeks.

This does not bode well for small local business owners in Moray.

National chain Brantano with a store situated at the Springfield retail park looks likely to close also, so this shows that it is not just local firms feeling the pinch and coming to terms with a change in shopping habits.

In Lossiemouth the local post office is about to shut for good (although the facility will be available in local newsagents Buckleys) and follows the recent closure of the Royal Bank of Scotland in the town. These two closures are a huge blow to the town but a decline of use are the main reasons behind both decisions, as we do our banking and get pensions paid electronically.

Of all our town centres in Moray, Elgin has the biggest problems as it wilts away before our eyes.

So are the council to blame? Partly, yes. Or are we the shoppers of Moray to blame? Again, partly yes. The lack of choice and parking charges in the town centre together with our busy lives mean shopping online or out of town is pretty much normal for all of us now.

This is not just the case in Moray but UK wide, people like Mary Portas have tried to reinvent and reinvigorate high streets up and down the country – and while it is possible, it takes a great deal of effort and means people need to work together to make things happen.

Wouldn’t it be great if Moray were to set a precedent and make a real effort to get our town centres once again thriving? We as the public need to realise if we want to save our town centres and local shops then we need to change our habits, however we can only do so much as we can buy eggs without first having the chickens.

Shop local when you can, and local means not just your town but those around you – Moray has many towns and you may be surprised what you find.