We Should Do Everything We Can To Maintain Independent Shops

Published in the Inverness Courier. December 4th 2018

Stewart Nicol, chief executive, Inverness Chamber of Commerce

There are not that many shopping days left until Christmas and I’m sure many of you are still hunting for that special present. For our local retailers the perfect gift would be your custom.

It is increasingly the case that our High Streets, shopping centres and even retail parks are under extreme pressure because of changing shopping patterns and the inexorable rise in online buying.

I can understand in some cases the convenience of internet shopping. However, there is nothing like visiting a store, enjoying personal service from people who value your business and being able to provide feedback. Not to mention the ability to see and touch the product or try it on to avoid stockpiling goods that need to be returned because they didn’t match the online image. In addition, there is no need to worry about delivery charges or gifts not arriving in time.

Inverness Chamber of Commerce is firmly behind the campaign launched by Inverness BID at the weekend in support of the fantastic range of independent traders in the city centre.

We should all do everything we can to ensure a vibrant, welcoming centre that maintains independent shops offering something different to shoppers and showcasing the best of local products and produce.

At the same time, Inverness Chamber also supports the choice and diversity offered by local stores situated outside the immediate centre. To that end, we have added our voice to the 21 leading business organisations, led by the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, who have written a joint letter to Scottish Finance Secretary, Derek Mackay, urging him to scrap the proposed new business rates levy on out of town premises.

Ahead of the Scottish Government’s Budget expected on 12 December, the organisations have opposed proposals to give councils the power to charge a new rates levy on businesses operating on the outskirts of built-up areas.

I agree with the argument outlined in the letter that this new levy would add complexity, cost and unpredictability into the rates system, and undermine commercial investment.

Inverness Chamber’s position is that shops inside and outside the city centre are part of the same package and both add to the economic wellbeing of the area. They provide choice, maintain and create local jobs and help keep money circulating in the Highlands.    

Inverness is growing all the time, but as a city it is still small enough to regard both the retailers in the centre and those on the outskirts as part of the same ‘buy local’ campaign and we should support them all.