My Column

Best to shop around for xmas deals.

  • Date: Monday 17th December 2018
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It’s fair to say that it has been a pretty tumultuous seven days since my last column - particularly so if you happen to be reading this, Prime Minister.

But with just one more week until Christmas is finally upon us, attention is inevitably turning to everyday matters like the big food shop, the festive weather forecast, and who will be top of the music charts.

And while it’s still debatable whether you’ll get that back-up trifle for dessert or if we’ll see a white Christmas, one thing’s for sure, the bank cards of even the most reluctant shoppers are starting to seriously ring out – just maybe not in the traditional sense.    

Last week we learned that footfall on UK high streets and retail parks hit its lowest level since the recession. Data for November released by the firm Springboard suggested there has been a fall of more than three per cent, and they’re expecting December to be bleak to boot.

On top of this, the Scottish Retail Sales Monitor revealed in recent days that sales are also at a 21-month low.

Maybe we’re turning into a nation of Scrooges – or maybe our spending habits are evolving.

There has been a lot of commentary in recent days about us being overwhelmingly bargain hunters. Indeed, data from Barclaycard showed that Black Friday shoppers bought more but spent less this year.

I’m sure you’ll agree we’ve seen a staggering level of discounting in recent weeks, lasting long after Black Friday and Cyber Monday. And in a certain light, this could be viewed as a good thing for consumers.

But, one major factor in the high street’s declining fortunes, which we can’t ignore, is that shoppers are migrating online.

It’s not hard to see the allure of shopping from the comfort of your sofa, with your iPad in hand and Netflix rolling in the background. After a busy week in the office, the idea of trekking around the shops isn’t everyone’s idea of a relaxing weekend.

For others, there is something special about the shopping experience, about visiting a physical store and interacting with actual products and other people while immersing yourself in the Christmas atmosphere – a tradition it would be sad to lose.

And for some, it’s maybe a question of what’s most cost-effective. Did you know, the Scottish Parliament Information Centre has found that people in rural parts of Scotland could collectively pay more than £11 million in extra delivery charges than their counterparts in the rest of the UK for their Christmas shopping? That’s no small change.

On the other side of the equation, delivery companies are thriving. It was revealed last week that food delivery firm Deliveroo has seen its driver numbers grow dramatically in just a few short years to more than 1400 in Scotland. It seems it’s not just our Christmas shopping we want delivered to our doors.  

Come Christmas Eve, and when the delivery cut-off dates have passed, I’m sure we’ll see a surge in last-minute shoppers on the high streets as always.

But it undoubtedly remains a worrying time for bricks and mortar retailers, and the business community will no doubt be looking closely in the New Year for signs of any casualties.

Let’s hope that the Brexit clouds clear in 2019 and confidence returns to Scotland’s high streets.

 

SIDE

I joined thousands of others sleeping out under the stars across Scotland last week, at one of the many mass sleepout events in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee.

The fundraising gigs were organised by charity Social Bite, with the aim of raising £4m to help homeless people across Scotland.

Those taking part were treated to performances from artists, including Amy Macdonald and KT Tunstall, with both singers performing at all four locations, after being ferried between the destinations by helicopter.

Scottish icon Lulu headlined the event in Edinburgh, with comedian Fred MacAulay hosting, while in Glasgow, Frightened Rabbit returned to the stage for the first time since singer Scott Hutchison took his own life earlier this year.

The event has come in for criticism because, according to some, it doesn’t mirror the real experiences Scotland’s homeless are faced with on a daily basis.

Of course the annual sleep out in the park doesn’t replicate the feelings of desolation, hopelessness, fear, sadness and isolation that many of us will never go through in our lifetimes.

But what it does do is raise awareness and a hell of a lot of money. I’m delighted to say that my own fundraising efforts have so far managed to generate over £20,000.

Organiser Josh Littlejohn Social Bite said money from the inaugural Edinburgh event last year was used to fund the Social Bite Granton village, which now provides a home to 20 homeless people.

He has also said that they have “pretty concrete ambitions” to get at least 830 people off the streets in the next 18 months to two years. That’s not just money – that’s real action.

 

LAUGH

It’s not often that you associate ice cream parlours with warming treats – and they’re perhaps not your first destination in the depths of winter.

But Dolces in Glasgow’s Gallowgate is bucking the trend with a very warm welcome indeed.

Here’s the scoop. It may be a small business, but it has big hopes of taking a leaf out of Social Bite’s book by helping the homeless.

On Christmas Eve, it will be opening its doors to serve food and hot drinks, and giving out gifts. Right now, it’s busily getting other small businesses on board to help.

Dolces want to make it a Christmas Eve to remember and bring as many people together as possible.

And let’s face it – who doesn’t like ice cream, even in the Scottish winter?

 

WEEP

I honestly could not believe my eyes when a young Dundee United left back faced criticised in the papers for his questionable fancy dress party outfit.

Jamie Robson was forced to apologise after he presumably decided it would be funny to go as an African salesman.

The 20-year-old was tagged online in an image showing him attempting to lampoon a stereotypical street vendor.

In a statement on the club’s website, Robson said: "As soon as I became aware that I could offend, I took immediate action and removed both the make-up and costume.”

It’s the “As soon as I became aware that I could offend” bit that gets me. 

How the young lad wasn’t aware in the first place is beyond me.

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