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Inverness: Moves that proves there’s life in the High Street yet

posted: 15 June, 2015

RMC’s Head of Business Development, Joseph Leftwich, was recently asked to contribute to a special feature in The Times Business Insight supplement focusing on Inverness, Scotland’s Highland capital…

When it comes to shopping, Inverness has a spring in its step. Lakeland is now well established in the Eastgate Shopping Centre, as is Scottish retail success story, Ness, which is doing a brisk trade with its signature range of Scottish womenswear and accessories range.

In the town centre there are a few fantastic independents making their mark – Blend Tea & Coffee Merchants, Isle of Skye Candles, and Judith Glue among them. The Victorian Market is expecting a makeover, and the town centre is clearly benefiting from the focus brought to it by its Business Improvement District team. And to think, not so long ago we were pondering the death of the Great British high street.

There’s a deeply-felt collective pride in our traditional town centres. They have a social and practical application, of course, but more than that they’re full of nostalgia. Part real, part imagined, when we go to the shops we are returning to the busy tearooms, chatty mothers, jolly butchers, bakers, cobblers of our childhood.

These places, characters and experiences are common to all Brits and have so much value and obvious commercial potential that, really, we ought to have had more faith in our retail entrepreneurs than to think our high streets might actually die. Inverness is, I think, evidence of this.

Away from the high street, though, there has been a huge shift in how we shop. It’s almost too obvious to mention, but where once we bought only what was available in our towns and cities, we can now shop for everything from everywhere, online.

That something so fundamental has happened so quickly, and without very much fuss is a testament to how effectively we, as shoppers, are being sold to. And in this respect, Inverness is no slouch either with some fantastic online retail entrepreneurs doing some really interesting work.

Magnus Houston launched Coast & Glen as an online retail business just last year. Formerly a professional motorcycle racer he discovered a passion for fishing whilst recovering from a career-ending accident at just 24 years of age. Once out of his wheelchair be bought a boat and embarked on a new career selling lobster and crab first from his van and then directly to local restaurants.

When diners began showing up at his premises hoping to buy direct, Magnus realised he needed a plan to satisfy demand. Based on a similar idea to the veg box, fresh seafood would be delivered directly to customers within 24 hours of being landed. And like a veg box, customers receive only what’s in season and available – a neat way of protecting fish stocks and introducing seafood fans with new products.

From 50 customers last June, Coast & Glen now ships to over 800, and has gone from 3 boxes per day to around 80 in just 1 year. So if you thought that traditional retailing was in trouble, here’s a fishmonger for the 21st century. And if you thought Inverness was short of entrepreneurs, speak to Magnus.

Original article published by The TimesBusiness Insight on 09/06/2015