The streets of Aberdeen are not experiencing the same footfall as they did before the pandemic, but independent businesses in the city say they feel encouraged that people are still spending their money.
Most are trying to stay positive and are grateful to still be open, but added that it would be difficult to endure another year of coronavirus restrictions.
Independent businesses in Aberdeen have shared their experiences from over the festive period and how the pandemic is continuing to have an impact on trade.
Here are their views:
‘Difficult to get traffic’
Red Robin Records is a café and vinyl store on Correction Wynd which roasts its specialty coffee on site.
Nick Duthie started the business in 2019 and said the past two years have been “really difficult” due to the pandemic.
“It’s difficult to get traffic. That’s generally what we’ve found in the city centre as a small business,” he said.
“The city centre has been quiet which does affect our trade. Union Street is very quiet, Bon Accord is very quiet. Because there’s no shops on Union Street any more, people tend to go to the centres.
“And because John Lewis is gone people are going to Union Square. They don’t find any point coming up to Union Street which affects the flow of the whole city.”
Mr Duthie shared that the store and café has not been able to establish any customer trends because of the Covid impact.
“Every year people come into town to do Christmas shopping, because of when we opened it is hard to tell if it’s busy because of Christmas or if it’s busy because we’re doing well,” he continued.
“It was really quiet in October, November, they were very difficult months, and the first week in December was quite quiet.
“The run up to Christmas was really, really busy, thankfully. The restrictions they put in place over the Christmas period are nothing new for us, we put our screens up again, we’re used to it so it hasn’t been too much of an inconvenience.
“Generally, the city centre is a lot quieter. The footfall is just not what it used to be, and I can’t see that returning anytime soon.”
Pandemic pushed businesses ‘over the edge’
Kenny Graham owns four music stores across Scotland, including one located at The Green in Aberdeen.
He shared that footfall at Kenny’s Music has decreased across three of the branches while he has temporarily closed his store in Dunfermline.
He said: “There was an increase in online sales at the start of the lockdown, with lots of people picking up guitar or piano, which meant the stock went fast. By the time it got to Christmas, suppliers were struggling.
“We had a rush last Christmas, but less people this year. I think people going back to work from home meant there were less people passing. It has been challenging with more people shopping online, but we’re still going and we’re doing the best we can.”
Mr Graham had travelled up from Glasgow for the day to help out the Aberdeen store due to staff having to self-isolate.
“It’s important to keep the store open if we can. On a positive note, we’re still here,” he added.
“But another year of this would be tiring.
“I’ve seen a major transition in Aberdeen just over the past five years. Businesses were struggling before the pandemic, but it has pushed many over the edge.”
‘Some really busy days’
Kiefer Ramiro opened his vintage clothing store, Back of Beyond, in Aberdeen a month ago, just in time for the Christmas shopping rush.
Although he cannot make any comparisons to previous festive periods, he did say it was good to see that people are still going out to spend their money.
He said: “I’ve just opened, and I didn’t really do too much marketing, so it’s just the case of people stumbling across us. Christmas was really good though, better than I expected to be honest.
“A lot of people tend to go down to Union Square first and then make their way up this way and we had that really cold period, so some days were really quiet.
“I think people just wanted to get their Christmas shopping done, so there were no crazy drops in footfall that I noticed. Even after more restrictions were introduced, I still had some really busy days.”
Busy weekends before Christmas
Andrew Goodenough owns Contour, a café located on The Green in Aberdeen, which opened in December 2012.
Although they normally keep their doors closed between Christmas and New Year, this year they have decided to open up for customers.
Mr Goodenough explained that they were kept fairly busy in the lead up to Christmas but things have quieted down again since.
He said: “On a normal year, we’d be really busy right up to Christmas Eve. We’d normally close Christmas Day through to the start of January because we have a lot of catering jobs and a lot of the oil companies and businesses around us would be closed during that time, so we’d take a couple of weeks off.
“This year has been fairly busy in the run up to Christmas, but today not so much. At the weekends we were getting quite a lot of Christmas shoppers, especially last Tuesday and Wednesday it was quite busy as well.
“Quite a lot of people were coming into town to go shopping and have come in here.
“In the summertime we were as busy as we’d ever been and we had the outdoor area to double our capacity. Now it’s a bit colder, not so many people are coming to sit outside.”
Volume of shoppers is ‘encouraging’
The clothing and footwear store, Hanon, was was founded in 1990 and sells a range of apparel no other stores stock in the north-east.
Like most businesses, they have experienced a drop in footfall due to the pandemic but say the lead up to Christmas was very promising.
Manager Murray Horne said: “It’s been very encouraging. In the last two to three weeks it’s been really good.
“It’s definitely quieter than previous years. We’re traditionally really busy on Boxing Day, with kids wanting to spend their Christmas cash and wanting to get out the house.
“From last year, when we had to close, to this year it’s a big plus, but from pre-Covid it’s a lot less. I’m sure it’s the same everywhere.
“But this year, certainly for December, it was encouraging. The volume of people coming through the door and spending was good. From that perspective, it’s really positive.”