Forres businesses urged to get behind national campaign

Peter Wilson

BUSINESSES IN A MORAY TOWN are being urged to get behind a national campaign that highlights the role small and local independent retails play in their communities.

‘Independent Retailer Month’ is a UK-wide campaign held each July that seeks to increase football in towns and villages.

Now a local businessman in Forres is taking the lead by bringing the attention of businesses to the campaign month – which is being supported through the Forres Business Association.

Peter Wilson, owner of Mackenzie & Cruickshank explained that while his is no longer a town centre business, he believes the businesses in Forres should all be working together for the common goal of driving traffic and footfall into the area – one of the key aims of the month.

He said: “I have been in business for about 20 years now and have had the privilege of operating on the High Street and now at our current location on the A96, west approach to Forres.

“Although we have been here now for some 13 years, we are still very passionate about Forres and the High Street and we very much believe that all the businesses should be taking a role of promoting Forres as a destination and it’s great to see that they are.

“The recent Piping At Forres competition to create welcoming window displays or products to celebrate the event is testament to that. The resurgence of the Forres Business Association over the last two years is testament to that and the fact that the International Retailer Month campaign is here is great to bring attention to the need for retailers to work together to increase footfall and engagement with consumers.

“Operating any type of business now is hard work particularly with the growth of out of town retail parks, but we can either moan about it or work together to make Forres a truly fantastic destination and it’s so inspiring to see that this is happening.”

Colours of Cluny (pic: Chris Spencer ActivNorth)

Peter freely admits that the recent European Pipe Band Championships takes business away from his garden centre and coffee shop – but adds he is still fully supportive of the event as he explained: “I would never be bitter that our shop is quiet during events such Piping At Forres, Colours Of Cluny, or the Highland Games as all of these events and others are all making Forres that go-to destination.

“I happily displayed pop-up banners, posted on our Facebook page and will help in any way I can all of the events as they are driving traffic to the town. We are one community and we need to be supporting each other.

“People will visit because of these events, they will see what a stunning location we have and the hope is they will come back to visit another time or extend their visit the next time there is an event on.”

Now Peter is planning a free winter market for local traders in November: “In the winter, we are going to utilise the planet market in different ways. For example, we will have children’s rides situated in there. We are also planning a two-day winter market on November 18 and 19 which is open to small local traders who maybe don’t have a shop or a regular place to sell.

“We already have about 20 stalls signed up for it so there is clearly an appetite for this type of thing. This will be our first winter with the new space and I want to see if we can’t put it to some good use.”

His sentiments about businesses supporting each other are shared by the Forres Business Association which was resurrected two years ago. The Association recently held its annual general meeting and is currently being headed jointly by Jock Gibson of Macbeth’s butchers and Gavin Ellis from the Knockomie Inn.

Jock said: “Independent retailer month is a fantastic initiative supporting independent retailers and it is something that I would encourage all business to support. At the very least retailers should be adding their business details to the free directory that is available to businesses and customers.

“According to the independent shops website ‘every pound you spend in a local independent shop or locally owned business up to 70p benefits your local community.”