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Business / TikTok provides much needed boost for Lerwick business

Nicola Johnston: 'It's completely changed our online orders…and the footfall in the shop.' Photo: Malcolm Younger/Millgaet Media

ISLAND LARDER has seen an almost 900 per cent increase in online orders due to their videos going viral on social media.

Owners Nicola and Magnus Johnston took over what was then known as the Shetland Fudge Company in 2014.

The business expanded in February 2020 when the couple bought new premises at 97 Commercial Street, just a month before the first coronavirus lockdown.

They were eventually able to begin a takeaway service in November that year.

Amid lockdowns and a cost-of-living crisis, it has been far from smooth sailing for the business – but now hope has come in the unlikely form of video-based social media app TikTok.

TikTok is a social media platform where users can watch and create their own short videos.

Island Larder’s videos usually consist of Nicola being busy in the kitchen, showcasing local produce. She also narrates everything herself in Shetland dialect.

@islandlarder

Wednesday in the Larder kitchen! #Shetland #Smallbusiness #chocolatelife #marshmallow #businessowner #scottishtiktok

♬ original sound – Island Larder

Nicola told Shetland News that she was encouraged to use the app due to an audit done by Taste of Shetland.

“It was basically saying our website was really good, our social media accounts were really good, Facebook and Instagram,” she said.

She said that it was “such a positive thing” during a tough time for the business.

“Then it mentioned other ones like Twitter and TikTok, and we did have TikTok set up but…I really didn’t understand TikTok myself, I didn’t have it and neither did Magnus,” Nicola continued.

Despite being unfamiliar with the app, she decided to give it a go.

“The next day I went to work and I was like ‘well, I might as well do it!’

“I videoed me walking to work and making chocolate and marshmallow and it just went mental.”

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Island Larder currently has almost 50 thousand followers on TikTok – more than double the population of Shetland – and their videos regularly get thousands of views, sometimes even reaching millions.

Nicola believes that the business lends itself well to the platform.

“Everything’s so different, every day is different. There’s so much content,” she said.

“Everything we do is about Shetland, so [the viewers] love seeing Shetland ingredients being used in it and making it from scratch.”

The impact the app has had is “nothing but positive”, according to Nicola.

“It’s completely changed our online orders…and the footfall in the shop.”

From January to May 2022, the business received 83 online orders. In the same period this year, they got 827, which is an increase of 896 per cent.

Nicola described the difference as “phenomenal”. She has had to take on two new part-time staff members to keep up with the demand.

“It’s because of the locals that we’re still here,” she emphasised. “But this is just what we needed, at a time when we needed it.”

She says that the early mornings and late nights are entirely worth it when “that amount of folk are getting a taste of Shetland”.

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