DESPITE a growing feeling of déjà vu this December, for shop owners in Glasgow, this festive season has been significantly different to last year’s.

After restrictions meant businesses had to close for several weeks in the run up to Christmas, many shops missed out on trading during what’s normally their busiest time of the year.  

While being able to open this year has left some feeling “more positive”, many small business owners are still facing difficulties as the last year and a half has seen a change in shoppers’ habits.

Soni Ahmed, co-founder of MAIA Gifts on Bath Street said it’s “great” to be able to have a normal run-up to Christmas this year.

He said: “It was a huge loss of sales basically, first and foremost we lost a lot of income, and secondly Christmas accounts for 60% of our year so it’s such a vital part of us being able to sustain the rest of the year.

“It keeps us going through the quieter months of January and February when nobody wants to think about gifts at all.

“For us, Christmas is the be all and end all and having been closed it was devastating to us and we were lucky that local people did support us and they were ordering on our website which was a lifeline for us last year.”

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Glasgow Times: Soni Ahmed pictured by Gordon TerrisSoni Ahmed pictured by Gordon Terris

However, despite being able to open this year, business owners are still finding sales have been slower than expected.

Soni said: “It’s been a bit of a slow burner, I’m not going to lie.

“Footfall is down in the city, we rely a lot on the city worker.

“Basically, people that work in town five days a week normally, they’ll come in and they’ll do their shopping during lunch breaks and things like that.

“It’s starting to build a little bit now, but we’re hoping that in the last week before Christmas we’ll start seeing a lot of those regulars starting to come back into the city again.”

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He added: “I think all small businesses around the city centre, we really do need people to start coming back in and shop because we are hit from all angles at the moment with the bad weather, with Covid, with the lack of footfall.

“It’s never been more precarious a situation for small businesses in the city than we’re in right now, I don’t know if people fully appreciate how difficult it is to keep going.”

Suzi Nicol owns Sunshine No. 1 on Cathcart Road in Mount Florida, which sells art, gifts and cards all created by designers based in Scotland.

She agrees that this year sales have gotten off to a slow start.

Suzi said: “Last year was awful having a lockdown when it came, just in our busiest time, but having said that sales are actually down this festive season by about 10% and speaking to other small business owners around the area, we’re all the same.”

Glasgow Times: Suzi Nicol pictures by Gordon TerrisSuzi Nicol pictures by Gordon Terris

However, Suzi still finds there are people in the local community who are intentionally trying to shop smaller and local.

As a result of the pandemic, business owners have overall seen a change in shoppers’ habits, particularly as more people turn to shopping online.

Suzi said: “There’s definitely more shopping online, including on my own online shop I would say.

“I offer a local delivery service across the Southside of Glasgow and I’m definitely seeing more local deliveries, I’m definitely posting more than I was the previous year.

“People are still supporting a small business without coming into the shop and it’s really touching that they would still shop with us online rather than with a big multinational retailer.”

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Denise Laird, who owns Spirito on Crow Road in Broomhill, has also seen a growth in online shopping, but still believes there’s a need for local shops.

Denise said: “There’s been a definite change in shopper’s habits.

“I think people do shop a lot more online and that’s definitely changed, but I feel there probably is still a need out there for small businesses like ours because people are still interested and still want to come into smaller shops and have a look and get the customer interaction and see products.

“I think there’s still a demand for that.”

Glasgow Times: Denise Laird pictured by Colin MearnsDenise Laird pictured by Colin Mearns

While this year has seen Denise having more difficulty getting products due to supply chain issues, she says she’s been “lucky” to have so much support from the local community.

She said: “I feel we’re in a much better position than we were this time last year.

“I feel much more positive, we’ve probably got slightly different challenges now with supply issues, and of course the pandemic’s not completely over yet, we have other factors always coming into play, but we’re just maybe getting a bit more used to dealing with the unexpected as much as we can.

“The customers have been amazing at coming back to us and supporting us.

“Without that, all our small businesses wouldn’t do so well so that’s been lovely to have that support.”

Glasgow Times: Denise Laird, Katie O'Grady, middle and Caroline Simm at rightDenise Laird, Katie O'Grady, middle and Caroline Simm at right