Rural business owners around Scotland are being urged to support a revamped initiative aimed at pushing more consumer spending their way.
A 2021 update means small and medium-sized enterprises turning over less than £500,000 a year can now be listed on the directory – and be part of the Reds Gift Card scheme free of charge.
Unless we move with the times, small businesses will disappear.”
Kate Blake, Hebridean Design Company
The pre-paid cards can be used across a network of local businesses, including restaurants, cafes, shops, salons, attractions, and leisure and entertainment businesses.
One-fifth of Scotland’s population live in rural areas, and non-urban locations are estimated to account for about one-third of the country’s total economy annually.
According to GrowBiz, nine out of 10 rural businesses are classed as “micro”, with fewer than 10 employees.
From Newcastle to the Hebrides
Reds Gift Card scheme members include Kate Blake, who set up the Hebridean Design Company in 2015 with her husband, Doug, after moving to Harris from Newcastle and noticing a gap in the market for crafts created on the island.
Ms Blake said: “I was a nurse before we moved to Harris, and my husband was an engineer. Using Doug’s expertise in engineering, we set up the embroidery side of the business and, through the success of the embroidery, were able to invest in the glass side. A derelict barn was converted to become our gallery and Doug also runs workshops.
“As with everyone, we didn’t expect a pandemic or for it to go on for as long as it has. Luckily, we have very loyal customers. We pushed on with the digital side of the business and created new ranges.”
She added: “It is incredibly important to support rural businesses, which is why I think the Reds Gift Card is such a good idea. But as well as consumers supporting rural businesses, rural businesses need to support each other – sharing knowledge so we can improve. People are so used to shopping online now, and unless we move with the times, small businesses will disappear.”
Joe McFadden, who runs the Mull and Iona Shop, with his wife, Chloe, said: “There are around 3,000 people on the Isle of Mull – you don’t know everyone but you tend to know most people.
“The community has pulled together, and there has been a real sense of trying to support small, local businesses. We joined the Reds Gift Card scheme after seeing something on social media, as it ties in well with what we’re trying to achieve and makes it easy for people to shop locally.”
Simon Yearsley, co-owner of The Scottish Deli, in Dunkeld, said: “Unless we want to have our lives run by Amazon, Tesco and click-and-collect, we have to stand together as rural businesses.
“There is a massive volume of rural businesses out there, from shops and artists to childcare provision and cafes. All businesses operating in a rural context are making a difference, supporting the area and creating a destination.
“By being part of Reds, we can shine a light on what is available locally, connect with other business owners, share ideas and, crucially, reach a critical mass. The more opportunities customers have to spend a RedsGift Card, the more popular it becomes.”
GrowBiz enterprise facilitator Andy Lambert said: “GrowBiz has supported more than 2,000 rural and island businesses, and Reds helps to ‘put them on the map’, making it easy for consumers to find and buy from rural enterprises, especially with the introduction of the Reds Gift Card.
“But being a part of Reds is about more than sales; it is becoming part of the collective voice of the rural community.
“The more rural businesses join us, the stronger our movement and the better conversations we can have with policymakers.”
‘Attractive customer proposition’
Miconex managing director Colin Munro said: “The strong sense of community means small towns can have incredibly successful gift card programmes. The Reds Gift Card builds on this by gathering together many small rural and island communities from right across Scotland into one larger rural community, creating an extremely attractive customer proposition.
“As the retail, leisure, tourism and business landscape continues to evolve, rural communities have the opportunity to become part of this exciting, powerful movement to preserve and protect rural and island businesses.”