The SLR Awards is always a highlight of the year for us here at the magazine – but this year’s Awards has the makings of something very special indeed.
By the time our Awards roll around on 27 October, we will – hopefully – be entirely clear of the dreaded Covid word that has haunted the industry and the people of Scotland for well over a year now. The Awards will hopefully allow us to take a communal deep breath and have a look back at what this phenomenal industry has achieved over the last year and a half.
With chaos all around us since March last year, very few of us have had the chance to stop, switch off and reflect on the year that may prove to have changed local retailing forever. Our plan is to ensure that the SLR Awards 2021 delivers a platform to do just that. For my money, the local retailing sector was the star of the community show last year and deserves all the praise it has received, alongside our fantastic soul brothers and sisters in the NHS.
The parallels between local retail and the NHS, incidentally, are quite striking when you think about it: perennially under-rated, under-valued, under-paid and overworked, the two sectors have quietly gone about their business with minimum fuss and maximum impact. Where would Scotland have been last year without the NHS and the local retailing sector?
So to finally win some long overdue praise and recognition from everyone from politicians to the fabled ‘man in the street’ means a lot to this sector. I hope I’m right in saying that local retailers across Scotland have gone up in the estimation of a lot of shoppers – and long may that continue. And this issue really is the crux of the matter: can we build a lasting legacy out of the sector’s hard-earned victories and successes over the last year or so?
Anecdotally, it seems from recent discussions with many retailers that store turnovers are remaining elevated. Not quite as high as they were last year, but many have told me they’re still trading 20% up or more on 2019 figures. Whether that’s just the tail end of the Covid effect or an indication of a longer-term trend, it’s too early to say.
But one thing is for sure: local retailing has the best platform it’s had in years to maintain and build on this momentum. Yes, it will mean changes to how we do pretty much everything in-store. But change is ultimately a good thing and if we want to remain relevant – and become even more relevant in future – that inevitably means changing to remain in line with today’s shopping habits, patterns and behaviours.
At the SLR Awards we intend to recognise and reward the retailers that have embraced that change most effectively and – more importantly – to share their stories with a wider audience, so that we can all benefit.
Antony Begley, Publishing Director