20th October 2018
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

Lerwick shops enjoy steady business over festive season

Harry’s Department Store owner Stewart Jamieson manning the till in the toys department.

Most Lerwick shops reported healthy takings over the festive period – despite a sense that last-minute buying has become more common.

Clothing and homeware shop M&Co manager Karen Arellano said her store was “extremely successful” as it topped the pile of similarly-sized M&Co shops across the UK.

Ms Arellano said: “The weather did affect us in terms of the snow and the ice did put people off. However, when that abated they came in swarms.

“Some of our most successful areas would have been the kidswear, the nightwear, jumpers, party wear and home[ware] for us is always amazing.”

Asked why the store was so successful, Ms Arellano said: “I think the product was right. I think the price points were good. We had lots of pre-Christmas promotions and I think people genuinely liked the stock we had.”

Meanwhile, The Shetland Times Bookshop enjoyed a busy spell in the lead-up to Christmas but manager Karen Baxter felt this year nevertheless saw a higher number of shoppers head south for presents.

Ms Baxter said: “There was definitely a different pattern. It took longer for the Christmas buying to start.

“I think more people went south to Aberdeen on more weekends and judging by reports of the airport car park being full that’s how it felt.

“But it’s not that it didn’t get started – it did. And when it did we were fighting to keep up with demand.”

Ms Baxter said people were keen to purchase books for family and friends, with children’s books among the most popular.

However, unlike last year, there were no “standout trends” identified by bookshops, she said.

“Books have been selling right across the board so I feel people have had to make their own judgement and it’s been great in that respect because there were some beautiful books,” said Ms Baxter.

She added that the only disappointment was that the popular new release <i>Old Lerwick</i> by Douglas Sinclair was not published earlier because it would have sold even more if it had been.

Along the road at the Market Cross, joint owner of High Level Music Brian Nicholson reckoned December had “probably been much the same as [December] last year”.

However, he said business for the month was steady – and markedly up on November.

“My own feeling is that Black Friday slows everything up,” said Mr Nicholson. “I think people wait to do their shopping until Black Friday has been. I think that has an impact.”

When the till did start ringing, it was mainly ukuleles and mandolins which changed hands. Mr Nicholson pinpointed the success of the Shetland Mandolin Band as the main driver behind the latter’s sales.

“So many folk now have access to tuition and they’re also seeing the group perform so that has kind of spurred on a few more folk to have a go,” he said.

Harry’s Department Store owner Stewart Jamieson said footfall in December was “a little bit down” on last year but the real difference had been with October and November, both of which had been quiet this time round.

Among the bestsellers in the toys department were the LOL Surprise! doll, Hatchimals and Paw Patrol toys. Games and lego were also popular, as were arts and crafts.

Mr Jamieson said: “I would like to thank all our customers for their continued support. We do have our regular customers and it’s nice to thank them.”

The Camera Centre on Commercial Street enjoyed a “great” festive period, according to managing director Ben Mullay.

He said: “The three weeks before Christmas it really just built and built. I think there was a good emphasis this year on local shopping.

“I think a lot of people have commented to us that they have been supporting local [shops] wherever possible.

“There’s been a lot of footfall and we have certainly been busier than we were last year and I hope all the other businesses found that the same.”

Unlike some of the other shop managers who spoke to <i>The Shetland Times</i>, Mr Mullay did not feel footfall was dented by Black Friday.

“We got good support from different companies to put offers on that weekend so it all helps. It certainly gives us a kind of start for the Christmas period because it kind of timed in with the start of the manic period,” he said.

Photo prints were very popular, helped in part by improvements to the online ordering process.

“We also installed a new minilab in October and people really seemed to like the quality of the prints,” said Mr Mullay.

As for the camera range, the standout performers were bridge cameras (characterised by their non-removable lenses).

In the Shetland Soap Company shop, team leader Renata Walton said the Christmas range had sold better than last year.

She added: “I would say we were probably busier than last year. Footfall was certainly a lot more which was good. And I think the internet orders were up as well.”

Jamieson’s Knitwear store manager Mary Leask said the shop had been busy but no more so than last year.

She identified hoodies, zipped cardigans, crewnecks, yoke cardigans and wool among the most successful items.

About Andrew McQuarrie

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