One Scottish town is launching an innovative way to help people support their local shops this Christmas – challenging shoppers to ask where they can find the perfect gifts.
Kirkcaldy is Fife’s biggest retail destination and hundreds of stores that contribute to Kirkcaldy4All - the town’s Business Improvement District – know that the launch of this year’s Christmas countdown will be crucial.
The town’s Christmas campaign kicked off at the weekend with several thousand people attending a lantern parade involving the local community, culminating in a firework finale on Saturday night – and continues this weekend with their support for Small Business Saturday that sees free street entertainment throughout the town centre. But when the lanterns have gone and the last rocket has faded, what will the town be doing to promote businesses to Christmas shoppers?
Kirkcaldy4All manager, Bill Harvey, says: “The sales through until Christmas can account for anywhere up to 50% of some of our levy-payers’ annual turnover. We know just how important it is to showcase what we have - to encourage local residents to shop in town and entice those from nearby to try what we have to offer.”
And this year, Kirkcaldy is trying something new. Bill adds: “We continue in our efforts to work closer with partners and stakeholders in the town, but we’re looking to help shoppers find the gifts they seek right here in Kirkcaldy.” Bill explains: “There are campaigns up and down the country asking people to ‘shop local’ – but the response is often that it is easier to shop online … or to head to a city. We don’t want to stop anyone shopping where and how they choose – but we do want to help those who want to help our town.”
As a result, Kirkcaldy4All will be using their following across social media platforms to engage with many thousands in and around Kirkcaldy. Every day between now and Christmas, they will be offering advice to those who are looking for Christmas gifts. Bill says: “We’re pretty confident that we’ll be able to rise to the challenge. Whatever people want, we’ll help them find it right here in Kirkcaldy.”
And there’s every reason why the BID for Scotland’s Lang Toun is going the extra mile. Research over the years has shown that for every £1 spent in a local business, over 60% stays in the local economy – a much higher proportion than with bigger stores. Many of Kirkcaldy’s businesses sell unique items – designed or created by the business owners as well as sourced from local, regional and Scottish companies. As gifts, they stand out.
For some, it will be an ethical choice – but Kirkcaldy4All is not necessarily banging that drum. Bill says: “There are many who will quote statistics about food miles. To us, it is just common sense. If your local store provides what you need at a good price – and backs it all with expert knowledge and customer service, then why look elsewhere?”
This year, Kirkcaldy has bucked a trend and seen some great independents move into town – none better known than the butchers shop operated by Puddledub. Bill adds: “When you shop at a local butcher – or baker or any store - you are supporting so many more in a long chain. The business, their staff, their families – the business’ suppliers. The chances are, you’ll also be speaking with someone who has real knowledge of their craft – knowledge they are willing and able to share in advice for customers. They’ll run unique promotions, try before you buy deals – all manner of initiatives to entice you. And if you reward them with your custom and loyalty, chances are – they’ll look after you as no big business ever will. It is a win-win.”
And there are bigger benefits than the obvious ringing tills on the high street. Bill adds: “This is about sustainable communities. Many of our businesses host events that support and promote local causes and charities. They involve schools and colleges, families and community groups. The more successful the businesses are, the more support they can give back to Kirkcaldy.”
Beyond the high street – and beyond the businesses in Kirkcaldy4All’s district – there are benefits that are as invisible as Santa. The hard work of the BID, coupled with the partnerships they have forged with many in their community, are delivering real change in the town. From enhancements to the waterfront to the provision of free Wi-Fi across the town, Kirkcaldy is repositioning itself as a great place to live, to work and to play.
Bill concludes: “We are taking small steps - but they all add up. And they’re making Kirkcaldy more attractive as a destination. Outside Edinburgh and Glasgow’s local authority areas, Fife has had the largest number of house sales in the last 12 months. And property prices in and around Kirkcaldy are growing faster than average – testament to the demand from those who see us as a desired location: a unique town with a long history, a new approach to our visitor and tourism markets … great transport links to enable people to commute. Yes, we’ve a long way to go – but the invisible hand of Adam Smith is alive and well and helping to drive our town’s fortunes.”