Inverness retailers have welcomed an early Christmas boost after a busy weekend of High Street trading.
The city was awash with activity over the weekend as Highlanders began their annual Christmas shopping.
It follows a difficult year for High Street stores which were forced to face lengthy closures due to the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, causing a severe downturn in revenue.
The Works was among the businesses enjoying an influx of customers over the weekend.
It comes as the store marks its 10th Christmas of trading in the city.
Manager Kerry Greig said she was pleasantly surprised despite another quiet week of sales.
She said: “There definitely was an increase in footfall on the High Street that’s for sure.
“It certainly has been tough. It felt like the Christmas rush had started which was nice.
“Due to how the week had gone, it was quite a slow week so I thought it was maybe going to be a quiet weekend, but it certainly picked up.
“It was good to see people back out again and getting a bit excited about Christmas now. It’s nice to see the High Street nice and busy.”
Traders at Inverness Victorian Market have seen a slight increase in footfall.
Manager Jo Murray said: “We have seen a very small increase in footfall over the past week, which could be an indication of early Christmas Shopping.
“Although we are not seeing the footfall that we normally do at this time of year, we are confident that his will continue to improve. All of our independent businesses have worked very hard to make shopping safe and to offer their usual festive delights despite the challenges.
“We are very much open for business as usual and look forward to having a successful Christmas.”
Stewart Nicol, Chief Executive of Inverness Chamber of Commerce said he was delighted to have seen an “uplift in activity” over the weekend.
He said: “I think it’s really positive. It’s a really good boost for High Street retailers that are obviously finding things particularly challenging.”
Meanwhile, Eastgate Shopping Centre manager Jackie Cuddy admits it is too early to place projections on the success on festival trading as sales among centre retailers remain mixed.
However, she said she was quietly optimistic for the weeks ahead.
She said: “We are finding that our numbers in the centre are pretty steady week on week but are still around -35% on last year and have been that for several weeks now. What we are not seeing is the usual growth yet at this time of year.
“It really depends on the product for example clothing generally is taking a hit as people aren’t going anywhere. Jewellers and perfumes are doing particularly well.
“For sure the people coming out are shopping and number of items per basket and average basket values are generally higher than normal. It is the browsers and impulse purchases that are missing.
“It’s too early to say at the moment as we have to take the whole Christmas period together but we are optimistic it will build ok and see November pay weekend as the trigger.”
Mhairi Macleod, manager of Begg Shoes said “they have been lucky” as they have enjoyed a steady flow in trade since reopening.
She is hoping the buzz on the street will continue in the weeks to come bringing a much needed boost to the Highland economy.
She said: “We were actually a bit quieter over the weekend but it picked up in the afternoon. It was a quieter Saturday until about around 2pm and then it hit the store.
“There was a lot of people about but we probably weren’t as hit with business like some of the other stores.”
She added: “There was definitely lots of people about the High Street on Saturday, we could see them going up and down. I think a lot of people have started thinking about Christmas shopping so they were hitting the streets hard over the weekend to get it done.
“We have been okay, we haven’t been too bad. Everyone needs shoes so we’ve been quite lucky. Hopefully it will continue and it will keep getting busier and busier now.”