Bad Economy Leads To Opportunity

It’s nice to see our friends in Scotland able to put a smile and optimism on an otherwise depressing economic time. Here is an article from Edinburgh.

Nobody said it would be easy. As the threat of a deep and lengthy recession looms over the country like a soggy, grey cloud, we could all be forgiven for feeling a bit sorry for ourselves.

There are no guidebooks, no self-help manuals on how to cope and no government checklists as to how we should best live our lives while the dreaded credit crunch holds sway.

But amid the financial crisis, people in Edinburgh are finding ways to cope, tightening their belts and adapting their lifestyles to beat the economic downturn.

And as they make these changes there are some businesses finding a silver lining in the cloud of recession.

Many people are now looking to the example set by the wartime generation and finding that “making-do” is the best approach when money is tight. Instead of throwing items out, they are opting to get things mended.

Cobblers across the Capital have reported a jump in trade at the moment as quick-thinking customers save on new winter footwear by patching up last year’s trusty pair.

Allan Ballantyne, manager of Timpson on Queensferry Street, is one of the lucky ones.

“The credit crunch is certainly not affecting our shops in a bad way, only in a good way. It’s not been bad for business at all.”

And people are finding there is money to be saved in buying second hand too. Charity shops are reporting increased demand from, mainly female, customers hunting for fashion items they may previously bought at a more expensive high-street price, particularly boots and handbags.

Costly children’s items, including prams and cots, are being wheeled off the premises almost as quickly as they were wheeled in, by eagle-eyed bargain hunters.

When it comes to food, there is no question that the city’s budget supermarkets are benefiting from the stormy economic climate, with Lidl reporting a significant increase in footfall across its seven Edinburgh stores.

A spokesman said: “People are finding out what our customers have known for years. We have premium quality items at the lowest prices.”

Cheap fruit and vegetables is a key factor in luring shoppers to budget stores, with sales of wholesome items, particularly turnips, being far higher than last year. Staple food items, especially versatile vegetables, are proving popular with shoppers looking for cheap and innovate ways to create bank-balance friendly meals.

Bargain hunters across the city are also ditching nights out in favour of cheaper nights in, with sales of takeaways up by as much as 17 per cent. Pizza chain Domino’s, which has three branches across the city, has benefited as many hard-up diners turn their backs on dining out. And so a night in with a pizza or a fish supper is coupled with a rented DVD, with many rental outlets noticing their trade is withstanding the storm.

Mark Wyser, manager of Alphabet Video and DVD on Broughton Street, said: “We are definitely getting customers who are saying they have come to us because the cinema is too expensive for them at the moment.”

During the day, more and more motorists are ditching costly cars in favour of bikes, public transport or, for an increasing number, occasional rentals.

Edinburgh City Car Club has seen a 46 per cent increase in its membership this year, with the majority of its 700 new drivers citing the credit crunch as their reason for joining the 2200-strong group, savings thousands of pounds each year.

Manager Keith Stark said: “In the past six months, more and more families and businesses have decided to join a car club as opposed to buying a car because it’s so much cheaper, less hassle and environmentally friendly.”

Many bike shops have seen an increase of as much as 40 per cent in takings, particularly through repairs. Customers often want to revamp old bikes which have been lying in sheds or lofts.

Chris Fowler, owner of Freewheelin’ Cycles on Slateford Road, believes the credit crunch has had a great impact on his trade.

Places offering cheap or free entertainment for kids are getting bumper visitor numbers and libraries and free attractions like Gorgie City Farm are proving popular.

The farm has been inundated with customers in recent months, many of whom are still willing to make modest voluntary donations despite the tough economic times.

Manager David Drury said: “Being busy may well be due to the credit crunch, because we are a free venue. We’re delighted to be here for people who are finding this a tough period.”

Of course, saving money isn’t the only response. Rather than give in to austerity, there are those who are trying keep cheerful by treating themselves.

Chocolate sales are up and ticket sales in the city’s theatres are booming.

Despite briefs costing as much as £40, performances of Mary Poppins and Calendar Girls in the city have virtually sold out this year.

And even those staying home to make their own entertainment are having an impact, with chemists reporting a rise in sales of pregnancy tests.

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