For business to survive you have to understand it - Kevin Buckle

One thing that has become apparent after the #ForeverEdinburgh fiasco is how businesses have their futures affected by those with no understanding of business.

By Kevin Buckle
Saturday, 24th October 2020, 7:00 am
Will shoppers return to the high street in the run-up to Christmas?
Will shoppers return to the high street in the run-up to Christmas?

More than ever now it is national politicians, councillors and the professionals they employ that will make the difference as to whether many businesses survive or go under – and so far it is not looking good.

One thing that should be made very clear is that all businesses are obviously not the same and there has in recent years become a big gap in particular between high street shops and those in hospitality.

While shops have been suffering, hospitality has been doing well and if truth be told, didn’t really care about any bigger picture so long as people had places to stay and frequented the many eateries and drinking establishments.

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You only have to look at the board of the Edinburgh Tourism Action Group (ETAG) who were handed the job of promoting Edinburgh and yet with more than two dozen members have nothing but a token representation from shops. Again ETAG recommended shops get involved with Visit Scotland as they would be around long after the Forever Edinburgh campaign ended, yet when I checked, there were 16 sections for things to “see and do” -none of them were shopping.

In fact, all these organisations are loaded with those in the hotel and tour industry. Unfortunately even the Federation of Small Businesses doesn’t really represent most high street shops who have little time for such things, highlighted by their ETAG representative being Kat Brogan of Mercat Tours.

Similarly the make-up of Edinburgh Council, while having a healthy number of cyclists, has few with businesses and none with shops that I know of – though I stand to be corrected on that.

The final denouement is when the professionals get involved to “help” business, which is when you get the perfect storm of incompetence that leads to things like Forever Edinburgh.

With the announcement of a digital Christmas things just got even more worrying for shops, though it has to be said that when lockdown first began delivery services were stretched to breaking point.

So the idea that Christmas shopping will move even more online than might have been expected is not one that seems feasible.

Most of all, while the hospitality industry may be suffering now it will undoubtedly bounce back within the next year or two, while for the high street, many shops may never recover and those that do will need help and support to adapt to a changing world that was coming even if the pandemic had never happened.

I’ve always firmly believed there is a future for shops on the high street but they need helped not hindered, especially now. While nobody is sure how Christmas will pan out for shops this year, there are only a limited number of options and the council should be putting plans in place for every eventuality.