New and long-standing local businesses alike need the public’s support this Christmas more than ever.
The coronavirus pandemic has taken its toll on our everyday lives, with high-street gift shops, boutiques, bars, cafes and restaurants battling to survive past the difficult year.
It is important that the north-east public maintain high spirits and continue to support its local communities as much as possible.
Running until the end of December, the campaign is shining a light on the different ways that shoppers can do their bit and help sustain regional firms.
It is hoped to push people to shop locally when ticking off items on their Christmas shopping list.
It may be a challenge to uncover the perfect gifts for the women in your life who have everything, whether it be a mum, wife, daughter or sister.
But thanks to luxury candle shop Farmhouse_grey Luxury Home Scents; women’s fashion boutique Willow Lane Fashion; gift shop Copper & Grey and beauty brand Essentially You – Soap and Skincare, this is made a breeze.
Despite the unprecedented times, more and more stores have been opening their doors for the first time across the north-east. This includes Farmhouse_grey Luxury Home Scents, based in Turriff.
The business was originally planned to launch at the tail end of this year. However, due to the wedding season being quietened because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, founder Amy Archibald – an award-winning wedding cake artist – decided to draw up a business plan and open the shop sooner than anticipated.
It first started operating in June and offers candles, reed diffusers, car perfumes, wax melts and warmers in an array of scents including sage and sea salt, lime basil and mandarin, flower bomb, pomegranate noir, and more.
Amy has also developed Christmas hampers and crates for the festive season, as well. She said: “My initial thoughts when Covid-19 put everyone into lockdown was fear and sadness.
“If I’m honest, it gave me a lot of anxiety as Covid-19 literally ripped my wedding cake business from under my feet in a matter of weeks. I had a diary bursting at the seams and it was all gone an instant.
“But eventually I opened my store during the pandemic as business was getting busier and busier, and my kitchen just wasn’t coping with the amount of work that was going on.
“I am very proud of how far my wee venture has come in such a short period of time but I am very much a go-getter. When I set my mind to something, I do it and I do with 110% commitment.
“My last £250 was used to start this business up and it really was a huge gamble, but it has paid off and I’m completely thankful that it has.
“I have taken so many positives from this year. It has forced me to make some major life decisions, which have been for the better.
“It has been one of the most worrying and testing times ever in so many ways. However, I have learned that we cannot control what goes on around us but we can control how we react, so it’s a case of getting your head down and cracking on.
“We love welcoming new and old customers to our shop. If you decide to gift one of our luxury candles to your nearest and dearest then it will most definitely be a gift that will be well received.
“I do beautiful gift boxes which are wax stamp sealed and would look amazing sat under any Christmas tree this year.
“Not only that, but we also provide free samples of our scent of the month with any products purchased and we strive to give you the best experience and customer service when you visit our store.
“From small humble beginnings, let us make your home smell divine.”
The store will remain open until Friday December 18, where customers are welcome to take advantage of Amy’s festive deals and purchase from her collection.
Situated just moments away is Willow Lane Fashion, owned by Ailsa Alsop.
This time last year Ailsa, who studied fashion management and graduated from Robert Gordon University in 2014, was operating her business online and preparing to host a festive pop-up shop.
But now – in the same venue where the pop-up shop took place – the entrepreneur has her own premises stocking a range of desirable and affordable women’s fashionwear and accessories.
The past year has had its challenges, but the talented businesswoman remains determined to succeed and optimistic.
Ailsa said: “Having operated online for three years, we actually only opened our store this year.
“The team and I had to completely renovate the shop and had planned to open early April, but coronavirus put a stop to all our renovations for a few months. Nevertheless, Willow Lane Fashion finally opened at the start of July.
“As we weren’t open pre-Covid, we don’t really have anything to compare to. However I’ve come to realise that in-store shopping is still a more popular way to shop rather than online given the success of the shop.
“The Willow Lane team have had a great, positive response from the public about our new store and lots of well wishes, too.
“I think if we can operate successfully in a year like this then I can’t wait to see what a more ‘normal’ year can bring.”
North East Now has been driven by Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce and supported by creative agency Hampton and Aberdeen Journals.
The campaign, which launched in June, has pulled together a range of information, directories and blogs aimed at allowing people to find out more about local firms operating throughout the pandemic.
Mother-daughter duo Diane and Molly Heath launched Essentially You – Soap and Skincare during lockdown, with a focus on producing eco-friendly products that are free of palm oil, paraben and chemicals.
Operating in Auchnagatt near Ellon, the business partners said that while Covid-19 has dominated 2020, they believe “people are making more of an effort to shop local this Christmas”.
“In a bid to encourage our community to shop local, we have opened up the ‘Essentially Christmas Pop Up Shop’ at the Ellon Business Centre in Aberdeenshire,” Molly added.
“Here, local crafters and businesses pay for their shelf to be able to display and sell their products, with a total of 22 crafters taking part and a few more to join in December.
“So far, it has been a success with profits for all the crafters totaling up to just under £7,000 in the first four weeks of opening.
“We are open until the middle of December and are super happy with all of the support we have received from the community so far.
“As for our festive deals, Essentially You are offering two types of gift boxes for only £20.
“Inside our Christmas box, the customer receives a sweet orange scrub, sweet orange lip balm, tangerine and bergamot bath salts, tangerine and bergamot soap and a Christmas flannel. All of these bought individually would normally add up to £23.50.
“In our peppermint gift box, customers receive a peppermint scrub, peppermint foot balm, spearmint and peppermint soap and a Christmas flannel, which would also all add up to £23.50 if bought individually.
“All in all, we have something for everyone to enjoy this festive season.”
Katharine Canning, owner of Copper & Grey, has tried to ensure that both her stores stock plenty of gifts that consumers will not find anywhere else.
With a mix of small, independent brands, as well as some bigger, better-known names, the Copper & Grey gift shops are bright, contemporary spaces that will make shopping a pleasant experience for each and every customer.
They are based in Banchory and on Chapel Street in Aberdeen.
Opening her second store mid-pandemic, Katharine is proud of how far her brand has come. She said: “As a family-run business, closing our doors and losing our income was pretty scary and stressful. The first lockdown wasn’t an easy time for anybody.
“What we did discover was that we had a fantastically loyal customer base.
“They were incredibly supportive – ordering from us online and via our social media.
“We ran weekly Doorstep Drop deliveries that kept us going and I honestly can’t thank our customers enough for their amazing support to get us through until we could re-open again.
“Since then, we have had to reduce the number of display tables in our Banchory shop to allow for a one-way system and took social distancing into account when planning the layout of our new shop on Chapel Street.
“However, since we set up the website shop at the start of lockdown, we’re planning to develop that side of the business too, and it’s definitely a priority for 2021.
“Opening a second shop in the midst of a pandemic obviously wasn’t ideal timing, however, we did it!
“The feedback has been amazing – so many people are pleased to see something new opening up, and are genuinely delighted to have a new gift shop in the site of the old Nova shop, which was clearly much-loved.
“Our staff are friendly and helpful, so if you fancy a little bit of human contact whilst you’re Christmas shopping, please do pop in by.”
Copper & Grey stocks a variety of advent calendars, bath and beauty products, candles and home scents, games and puzzles, jewellery, party products and much more.
Visit northeastnow.scot to access the hub and find out more.