After what seems like an eternity, it finally feels as if we’re seeing some light at the end of the Covid tunnel. As restrictions gradually ease and we hold our breaths on the infection rates continuing to move in the right direction, it seems entirely fitting that local retailers across the UK this month have the chance to do a little something special to commemorate and celebrate one of their own who succumbed to coronavirus.
Raj Aggarwal will be known to many retailers in Scotland thanks to his larger than life personality, his infectious enthusiasm for life and his love of meeting other retailers, swapping stories and chewing the fat about all things local retailing. Raj also made a fair few visits to Scotland including, I’m delighted to say, for SLR as he judged the SLR Awards on more than one occasion. His experience of the sector together with his positive outlook on life made him a fantastic judge – and everybody that worked with him on those sessions came away with a smile on their face. Raj just had that effect on people.
So to lose him so prematurely, aged just 51, to coronavirus was traumatic for many. I also think that Raj’s sudden passing served as a real wake up call to our entire industry that this is a high risk sector to be involved in. Local retailers have literally risked their lives to keep communities across the country functioning, and that’s not a fact that gets enough recognition. And that’s precisely the point Raj’s wife Sunita made to me when we spoke recently.
She had just launched a new campaign encouraging all retailers to commemorate her late husband by redoubling their community efforts this month – but she was very clear that, for her, the real point of the campaign was “for retailers to give themselves a pat on the back”. She didn’t believe that the local retailing sector has had nearly enough recognition for its unbelievable efforts over the last year. And she told me that she hopes the #DoAsRajWouldDo campaign will help retailers think for a moment about their own efforts for a change and not just about the communities they’ve served so selflessly.
The campaign, of course, is typically Raj: do something special between 19 and 26 April for your local community. And we would enthusiastically encourage you to do just that. And do it in Raj’s name. But we would also ask you to honour Sunita’s wish – and take a little quiet moment that week that “give yourself a pat on the back” and find a way to say thank you to your team.
We can’t bring Raj back, much as we would love to, but we can all take part in this little commemorative project and try to keep some of the love going long into the future.
Antony Begley, Publishing Director