Bowing out shopkeeper’s plea to locals

A KIRRIEMUIR shop owner has called on the public to use their local shops before it’s too late.

Matt Whatley of Whatley Books in the Glengate has made the difficult decision to close his doors after just over four years of trading.

Whatley Books had an optimistic first year despite the October 2007 opening coming just as recession was about to hit. However, despite a great first year, business has declined each year since.

Mr Whatley said: “I just feel that if another charity shop opens, which is fine, Kirriemuir is in danger of being in the same boat as other towns.

“I think that we are all struggling a bit with the recession but if people in the town don’t start using the shops then there won’t be any.

“I’ve told people that I am closing and my regulars have all been disappointed. The support I have had from the local people has been fantastic but it has just not been enough to keep the shop going.”

Mr Whatley feels that he cannot compete with the likes of internet giant Amazon and the supermarkets who often sell books at heavily discounted prices. He said: “I can’t even buy in books at the price Amazon are selling them for.

“I can understand why people shop with them but I just cannot compete.”

He added: “My profit has not even covered my overheads, with the likes of rent, and the big firms such as banks, water, electric, and unitises charging so much that they force me out of business.”

Mr Whatley concluded: “I would, however, like to say thank you to all of the customers I have had through the door. I’ve even had people in from Australia and America.

“It has been an experience.”

Across the street at Reid’s Shoe Repairs, proprietor Graham Reid agrees that the recession has been a difficult time for business owners.

He said: “The VAT going up to 20 per cent has been hard on all of us.

“I’ve been here for 16 years and I’m still hanging on. It’s been up and down but it has become steadier.

“I think it is because I am offering a service but it’s definitely not been easy.

“On top of the usual shoe repairs I have diversified into engraving trophies and selling model kits.

“Kirrie has always been up and down but there are more businesses coming through and I think everyone is bringing something in.”

Next door at the All Seasons Farm Shop, Arlene Forman, is just starting to build her business. By selling as much local produce as possible she is hoping for success through mutual support. She said: “We have big competition from the supermarkets but there people are buying more than they need.

“From us they can buy exactly what they need and nothing more.

“Our first couple of weeks in business, everyone was in to have a look but we need people to know that we are here.

“We need the support of our community.

“At local shops it has to be a personal service and I think that is what we all offer.

“All the businesses try to support each other and stick together.”

At Visions in Cards further up the street, Alison Gray thinks that a personal service is key to helping local businesses thrive. She said: “I like to think that people, in general, like to shop locally.

“I think giving a more personal service is a big factor. I know most of my customers by first name and I do think that helps.”

Alan Reid at the Wool and Baby Shop said: “I don’t know what we can do.

“Anything to keep people shopping in town has to be a good thing.

“We have to keep helping each other and encouraging customers to go to other local and nearby shops.”