Moving on from Time – Small Business Saturday was bittersweet this year but more important than ever

This Saturday was Small Business Saturday in the UK. This annual non-commercial campaign does good work highlighting the contribution small businesses make to the economy and the character of our town centres. Held on the first Saturday of December, it’s also a key day in the retail calendar. The day many people flock to the shops to do Christmas shopping after the all-important November payday.

This time last year, I was running a small business, Time Lifestyle Boutique. It was a gift shop in Dundee city centre, on the street that connects the civic centre of the City Square to McManus, the city’s current star museum ahead of V&A Dundee opening in 2018. I closed the business for good in March this year after a whirlwind adventure where I chased my dream, achieved what I always wanted to do and learned very valuable and hard lessons. Ultimately the business was not to be sustainable one but it was the start of a new chapter for me where I faced fears and made things happen in life. It’s in this spirit I have continued on my journey.

The reason I bring up Time this week is because I thought about the shop more this weekend than I had for the last few months. Small Business Saturday was the day we would take the most money each year. I did a lot of promotion of the event and wrote and spoke a lot about how important it was. In 2014, I also coordinated a campaign for other city centre businesses to get involved with. We offered discounts and shared information about the other participating businesses in the spirit of collaboration, rather than competition. I hope that this awareness campaign has at least resonated with a few people who include small businesses in their buying habits to this day. It might just save other small businesses from the same fate as my own.

This year I am throwing myself into experiencing the build-up to Christmas in a way I haven’t experienced for the last couple of years. Researching gifts rather than relying on my own suppliers. Planning a small gathering at my home for my family who has a tricky Christmas ahead of them. Going to Edinburgh for a few days to soak up the festive atmosphere of the capital with university friends I don’t get to see often enough. I’ve even managed some Christmas colouring.

As for my Christmas shopping this year, I have stuck to my indie principles as far as I can. I have ordered some bits and pieces online but tried very hard to find a local supplier. I’ve done a fair bit on Not on the High Street too. Dundee doesn’t have enough independent shops to do everything on my list so sites like this are incredibly helpful. There are a few jewels, though. The Tea Green Pop Up Boutique in the Old Flour Mill is beautifully presented and ideally located underneath The Bach in Exchange Court, where you will get an amazing coffee. Dundee’s Ministry of Crafts Fair at The Steeple meant I could buy from my favourites, Whimsical Lush and Little White Desk. There is an Ethical Trade Fair in the City Square I have not yet had a chance to visit.

This weekend I didn’t venture into town. I didn’t really fancy it. I’m mostly fine now but like I said, it was a significant weekend. I did  carry on with Christmas preparations. I bought some gifts and a fairy for my Christmas tree from Lovely Things, a business the lovely, Lynne Duffus is running from home while she is between premises. I also ventured to Turriffs, the Broughty Ferry nursery institution now incorporating a farm shop and coffee shop, Jessie’s Kitchen. I had a freshly-prepared lunch with a friend before heading outside to pick up a live Christmas tree. I got some expert help selecting the perfect height and width tree. It was even put into the boot of my car for me while I put the back seats down.

This weekend the Christmas spirit is coming to my current workplace. PopDundee, a wonderful organisation set up by two animation artists, Vicky and Ashling,is bringing their festive edition to The Circle. Local artists are coming along to pitch their wares in what is a new venue for them and potentially a new audience. They are even enthusiastically embracing the thrift theme of our Christmas events and sticking a £10 price limit on all goods sold on the day.

For me, this brilliantly addresses the most popular misconception of shopping small and local. That it is more expensive. You can still do your Christmas shopping on a budget and support small businesses and local artists. I have stuck to my budget this year and I am looking forward to giving to my friends and family. I hope they enjoy their gifts. I hope, too, that I have helped someone sustain a business into the next year and keep establishments with character in the city.

Image: Chris Law MP and Joe Fitzpatrick MSP call into Time Lifestyle Boutique with a chap from the Federation of Small Businesses to show their support on Small Business Saturday.

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