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Business / Street busy with shoppers as Christmas approaches

Blyde Welcome's Celia Smith (left) and Eleanor Arthur. All photos: Shetland News

RETAILERS on Lerwick’s Commercial Street say they have had a busy build-up to Christmas as people take the opportunity to shop locally this year.

Blyde Welcome is enjoying its first year with a premises open on the street, and it won the Living Lerwick Christmas window competition for 2023 with 135 votes.

Its display shows a hand-knitted nativity scene, created by Grace Barnes and Valerie Phillips, with a hand-painted backdrop by Sean Boyle.

Owner of Blyde Welcome, Celia Smith, opened the shop in July and has been enjoying getting into the Christmas spirit with her customers.

She said: “It was a quiet start, but we’ve been open every late Thursday shopping night and on Sundays. Sundays have been really busy, we get a lot of people passing by and wanting coffee on their walk.”

She highlighted the Christmas parade as a particularly busy day for the street, and added: “Since this is our first year, we had nothing to go on, but it’s been fantastic.”

Another person experiencing the festive season on the street for the first time is artist Avril Thomson-Smith, who opened her own premises on Commercial Street in May.

Artist Avril Thomson-Smith in her shop on the street.

She said: “It’s been really nice, having all the festive windows and the Christmas lights up has put people in the mood for Christmas. We’ve seen lots of people who’ve said it’s the first time they’ve been to the shop and it’s nice to see people are wanting to come to the street over the festive.”

Thomson-Smith has put in extra hours to be open more over the festive season, adding: “We don’t really know what to expect, and it’s difficult to predict which day is going to be busy but it’s good to see people wanting to buy local gifts.”

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Living Lerwick also ran a Christmas competition for people who used their ‘spend at da street’ cards, selecting six lucky winners to take home a variety of gifts and vouchers. Wilma Polson, Niko Crow, Aileen Blance, Martin Naylor, Sam Greshan and Eileen Brooke-Freemen won £175 worth of goodies just for supporting local businesses and using their cards while shopping.

Other long-serving businesses such as Harry’s were grateful to Superdrug as its opening was a reason to draw customers out to the street.

Stewart Jamieson, co-owner of Harrys, said: “Since the last week of November we’ve been busy every day. Last year’s Christmas Eve was busy, but with this year being a Sunday we’re not sure if it’ll be as busy. Superdrug has been a big asset to the street, and brought more people here which is great to see.”

Janet Davidge, owner of Westside Pine, agreed Superdrug had helped bring shoppers out: “It makes it more worthwhile to come to the street, especially with somewhere new like Superdrug as everyone wants to come and try it and while they’re here why not have a look around at the other shops too.”

She added: “We’ve been steady right the way through. All the events put on by Living Lerwick help bring people to the street. The atmosphere is excellent too, everyone is happy and chatting as they’re shopping.”

Living Lerwick project manager Emma Miller said: “We’ve had good feedback from many shops that they’ve been busy and are seeing a steady footfall of people choosing to buy local this year which is great.

“There’s a great range of products and services available in the town centre and it’s all here already – no panic about weather delaying delivery of items ordered online.

“I think shops have seen a good number of folk out for Sunday and late night shopping, and that’s backed up by the number of bairns we saw at Santa’s Grotto over the two weekends.”

The Winter Wonderland Grotto saw more than 350 children visiting across the two weekends to meet Santa and receive a gift. The Lerwick Ladies Lifeboat Guild provided volunteers to support Santa, and will receive a donation in the new year as a thank you.

Miller added: “I’d like to extend a thank you to everyone who supported our local businesses this year, on behalf of the Living Lerwick directors and the town centre businesses.”

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