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Business / Larder business owners speak out about closure risk

The Johnstons outside their new shop last year. Photo: Sophie Whitehead Photography

A LOCAL company says a lack of support during the Covid pandemic is one of the main reasons why its future is under threat.

Island Larder opened new premises at 97 Commercial Street in Lerwick last summer, offering a retail shop with a focus on reducing single-use plastic, as well as takeaway food.

But its owners Magnus and Nicola Johnston say the last number of months have been tough for the business.

They said Covid business grants should “not have been given out with a ‘one size fits all’ strategy”.

The pair said the company was rejected by the Business Hardship Fund as “we weren’t deemed to be supplying perishable goods to hospitality businesses”, despite 40 per cent of turnover falling under this category.

“We were also rejected by the Strategic Framework Business Fund due to being an essential business that was ‘allowed to open’,” they added in a post on Facebook.

As experience by many other businesses over the last year and a half, the Johnstons said the company has experienced a “dramatic loss in footfall during the most vital periods of our business”, with the reduced number of tourists during the pandemic a key factor.

They also claim there is a lack of support for companies which focus on reducing single-use plastic and ‘zero waste’ shops despite the push towards net zero, calling for green business subsidies.

Free parking around the street is another concern for some customers. “We know it’s not feasible for everyone to travel via public transport with bags of containers to refill,” the business owners said.

“There are a few parking spots and disabled parking spaces close to our store but these are almost always full. The introduction of time limited parking would prevent spaces being taken up by all day parking.”

The Johnstons added that they are due to meet Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart soon, as well as Highlands and Islands Enterprise.