STP: Support for small businesses crucial to town centre futures

A leading town centre expert, Phil Prentice, chief officer of Scotland’s Towns Partnership, has said that support for small businesses is crucial if Scotland’s towns centres are to thrive in the future amidst the continued growth of online retail.

STP: Support for small businesses crucial to town centre futures

Phil Prentice, chief officer of Scotland’s Towns Partnership

Speaking ahead of a visit to Lanark by the cabinet secretary for local government and communities, Aileen Campbell, Mr Prentice said that small businesses would be pivotal in offering people a unique experience that cannot be replicated by large online outlets.

Mr Prentice highlighted the need for town centres to become more experiential in their offering and that small independent retail, hospitality and food and drink businesses are key to providing consumers with something more than just a purchase.

Small Business Saturday is a grassroots, non-commercial campaign, which highlights small business success and encourages consumers to ‘shop local’ and support small businesses in their communities.

The day itself takes place on the first Saturday in December each year, but the campaign aims to have a lasting impact on small businesses.

On Small Business Saturday, customers across the UK go out and support all types of small businesses, online, in offices and in stores. Many small businesses take part in the day by hosting events and offering discounts.

The cabinet secretary was hosted by the Discover Lanark Business Improvement District on a visit organised jointly by Scotland’s Towns Partnership and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Scotland. Aileen Campbell visited a number of local small businesses, and met members of the local community who are working to regenerate their town centre.

Phil Prentice said: “Small businesses are Scotland’s past, present and future. It’s no secret that our high streets have been struggling for the last few years with the growth of online retail and a range of other factors. However, the evidence shows that local people really care about their town centres. For our high streets to thrive in the future, they need to innovate and use creativity to offer customers an experience they cannot get online.

“Our small businesses are crucial to providing this unique retail, hospitality or food and drink experience. The only way our town centres can thrive in the future is if our small businesses thrive too. Small Business Saturday is an excellent way to demonstrate the interdependence of Scotland’s towns and the fantastic small businesses that populate them.”

Andrew McRae, the FSB’s Scotland policy chair, added: “More people in Scotland live in our local towns than our big cities. And healthy towns and high streets need a vibrant small business community. At FSB, we want to see a wide range of businesses and service providers right in the centre of communities. That, of course, means independent retailers on our high streets, but it also means making sure that these important local places are attractive to the digital start-up or the public sector service provider.

“This weekend, we want to see people supporting their local independent businesses across the length and breadth of Scotland. It doesn’t matter whether you’re picking up a new novel, grabbing a coffee or bite with a friend, or ticking off your list of Christmas presents. Local smaller firms provide goods and services just not found elsewhere. If we get more people checking out what’s on their doorstep this weekend, we’re certain we can give our high streets a long-term boost.”

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