My Column

Businesses valentine day splurge

  • Date: Monday 18th February 2019
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Love was in the air last week and over the weekend too as couples up and down the country splashed out on their loved ones for Valentine’s Day.

 And nobody would have been loving it more than Scottish businesses as they counted their profits.


 The fact Valentine’s Day fell on a Thursday has no doubt proven especially fruitful for many.


 Lots of people I spoke to told me they exchanged token gifts last Thursday – cards, flowers, chocolates.


 However, since it was a ‘school night’, many waited until the weekend to continue their celebrations with nights out, dinners and weekends away.


 So the retail and hospitality industries got to enjoy more of a Valentine’s long weekend than a Valentine’s ‘day’, and a profitable one at that.


 The importance of this time of year can’t be underestimated for retail in particular.


 You might think Christmas and Easter provide the big seasonal boosts, but don’t underestimate the importance of the many other gifting mini-seasons.


Combined, the likes of Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Hallowe’en are massive contributors to their coffers.


So naturally – as with any other season – shops will often try to outdo one another with weird and wonderful sales tactics.



One retailer certainly got lots of attention this year when it unveiled a special breakfast treat to entice shoppers.


Marks & Spencer brought out - drumroll - the ‘Love Sausage’.


Yes, you read that correctly.


One might assume it got its name because the truffled, bacon-wrapped treat was presented in a heart shape.


But the more cynical ones amongst us, including me, would argue the real attention-grabbing part was its borderline-rude name.


I very much doubt this was a case of accidental innuendo, and many on Twitter felt the same.

One amused shopper said M&S had “gone feral”, while one asked if size mattered - for breakfast sausages of course - and there were declarations that M&S had “won Twitter”.


I think it’s fair to say it was as an uncharacteristically risqué move from a retailer that some perceived as relatively conservative. But the calculated risk paid off.


There were also a whole bunch of other stunts for love-struck shoppers, including rainbow-coloured roses from Morrison’s and heart-shaped Yorkshire puddings from Aunt Bessie.

While they might get chins wagging, it’s important to remember that not all retailers have the luxury of development teams who can create bespoke seasonal products and publicise them far and wide.


But that doesn’t mean they necessarily missed out.


Ahead of Valentine’s Day, retail group One Shop, which serves more than 160 franchised stores across Scotland, England and Wales, predicted convenience stores would be the go-to choice for last minute gifts.


So for them, the secret to success was straightforward - keeping it simple.


Stocking core products like chocolates, flowers and cards. Displaying them nicely in prominent positions. Stocking brands that appealed to men and women alike.


And there’s a lesson in that for all businesses, not just franchises.


Cover the basics, play to your strengths, set goals, take pride in your business space, brief your staff fully, and showcase your products as well as possible.


Grabbing headlines is great but if you want to enjoy long-lasting success, simplicity is the answer.





At the end of last year, hospitality trade press was full of predictions for how the industry would perform in 2019.


We’re just a few weeks into the year and I’ve already seen some very positive indicators for 2019.


New restaurants are springing up even before spring has sprung and it’s great to see Scotland leading the way.


One Scottish hospitality group that’s had a strong start is Buzzworks Holdings.


The company recently reported an increase in turnover for 2018 – up nine per cent from £14.8m to £16.2m and its annual results also identified a six per cent increase in employee numbers (rising from 438 in 2017 to 466 in 2018).


The company also secured its second venue outside Ayrshire – Scotts Port Edgar Marina – and began work on the 220-cover restaurant and bar situated against the stunning backdrop of the Three Bridges and the Firth of Forth.


Buzzworks clearly has a good handle on its customer base and it’s reaping the rewards.


And like all good businesses, people are its focus. 


Hospitality is such a customer-centric sector, so it’s vital that we invest heavily in people and provide industry-leading training across all parts of the business.


And it’s an industry that changes at a rate of knots. It’s led by trends and consumer demand – restaurants have to respond to the needs of their customers.


If you’re a small business, it can be tricky to adapt and reconfigure in response to change. But if your customers’ tastes change, it’s your responsibility as a business to respond.


At the start of 2020, when we’re looking back on the successes of 2019, there may have been some flashes in the pan – but if we’ve helped create some great hospitality professionals, I think we should enjoy the spoils.





I’ve never professed to taking much of an interest in art but there’s one particular creation in Stirling that’s certainly grabbed by attention.


The PureGym building in Upper Craigs – owned by my business SRA Ventures – features a mural of a woman in a heart-shaped hot weather balloon with a man scaling a length of rope below.


I’m no expert but I am sure it’s a Banksy.


The 22,000 square foot property has now been valued at around £2.2 million by Graham + Sibbald – and as a business, we’re now accepting offers.


And I’m Banksy-ing on it attracting lots more interest.


Whether or not it’s a genuine creation by the world-renowned graffiti artist, there’s no doubt the mural has generated a real buzz in the surrounding business community.  





If you drive to work, you shouldn’t have to be concerned about where to park.


But there will be added stress for drivers if a new workplace parking levy is rolled out in Scotland.


Two Scottish councils are reportedly considering introducing charges for parking at work which will see employees having to pay hundreds of pounds a year from their salary to cover costs.


The move is obviously designed to discourage people from taking their car to work to help the environment – and I completely understand that. 


Many of us need our cars to get to and from work quickly for family reasons.


I think it’s all about balance. There are other ways we can encourage people to do their bit for the planet.




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