Aberdeen Journals’ social media “power hour” – part of the North-East Now campaign – has received an incredible response from local businesses.
It took place from noon to 1pm and asked Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire businesses to post a picture of themselves holding up a sign that read #northeastisopen.
The power hour involved the Evening Express, Press and Journal, Society and Original 106 Twitter accounts retweeting every tweet posted by the businesses within the one-hour time slot, in a bid to promote them as much as possible.
The effort was arranged as part of the North-East Now campaign, which aims to shine a light on local businesses from a variety of sectors – including food, drink, fashion, beauty, lifestyle and more – that have been significantly affected since the Scottish Government introduced lockdown measures in March.
A total of 69 businesses took part – and the hashtag #northeastisopen was also trending in the UK.
Jamie Hutcheon, owner of award-winning Aberdeen-based chocolate firm Cocoa Ooze, was one of many businesses that participated.
He said: “I am always keen to get involved in activities that promote the region and promote our business. We are proud to be based in Aberdeen and have the support of our customers.
“I think anything that highlights local businesses is incredibly positive and the power hour idea was fantastic for grabbing people’s attention and doing just that.
“Hopefully it opened a lot of peoples eyes as to what is open and available in the north-east.
“I even came across a few local businesses that I haven’t heard about before, so it’s clearly worked.”
Like other businesses operating through the Covid-19 pandemic, Jamie has had to work tirelessly to introduce new products to his offering – including DIY chocolate-making kits – and adapt his services.
Lynne Duthie, co-owner of Aberdeenshire gin firm Esker Spirits, was eager to participate in the power hour to spread this message about her own business.
She said: “The biggest change for us has been the increase in online sales.
“We set up our Esker Shop via our website last year, and have seen our orders at levels we would expect only in the lead up to Christmas.
“It is clear shopping habits have changed over the past few months, so we decided to partner with other local businesses including Summerhouse Drinks, Dean’s of Huntly and Mackie’s to develop delicious Snack Packs for people to order for delivery.
“When the team and I heard about the power hour, we knew it was something we wanted to be part of. It’s a lovely way to tell the world that we’re open for business.
“There is such a strong sense of community here and, as we’re north-east born and bred, we’re proud to be part of it. I hope that the rest of the world can see the north-east of Scotland means business.”
Neil Sime, managing director at Blackford Craft Distillery, said: “There’s no denying the impact of Covid-19 in recent months and for us it has taken our business in an unexpected direction.
“Having solely focused on spirits previously, we discovered that we were in the fortunate position to able to make hand sanitiser to help support local key workers.
“Starting in March, there was a huge shortage of hand sanitiser across the UK and we were being contacted daily asking if were able to produce it.
“When HM Revenue and Customs approved the WHO formulation and removed duty charges for distilleries, we were able to start producing in small batches for key workers.
“Sales of these were subsidised and donations were made to some local care homes and nurseries.
“Now the supply chains are beginning to catch up with demand and lockdown is easing, we are able to supply more local people and businesses, which in turn means we can help more care homes and nurseries.”
He added: “The power hour was a fantastic opportunity to improve awareness of our wee distillery and create a buzz for all independent businesses as the lockdown eases.
“It is just one example of the fantastic promotional opportunities businesses in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire have had from regional media.”
Russell Borthwick, chief executive of Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce, said: “This has been a fantastic start for North-East Now and the message that has come through loud and clear from our local companies is they are here and they are open for business.
“There are many more, not least in the hospitality and tourism sectors, who will be reopening their doors in the weeks and months ahead, so the hub is only going to continue to grow as a resource for everyone.
“We would encourage businesses who want to be included or those with inspirational stories to tell to get in touch so we can help spread their message. We would also encourage people who want to find out how they can play a part by supporting local to keep visiting the site as our region starts to reinvigorate itself.”