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Forres High Street businesses finding ways to survive through coronavirus

By Garry McCartney

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Many Forres High Street businesses are still trading but there are a large number with closed until further notice signs on doors and windows.
Many Forres High Street businesses are still trading but there are a large number with closed until further notice signs on doors and windows.

MEASURES to prevent the spread of coronavirus have had a noticeable effect on business in Forres - but not all is doom and gloom.

A number of shops have closed until further notice and social buildings, including Forres House Community Centre and Forres Town Hall, are unable to welcome visitors, meaning fewer people on the high street.

Most sectors have been hit hard but some food trade sales have held up or even increased and all retailers have been impressed by the efforts of the community to beat they virus.

One business to suffer has been The Community Café at Forres House Community Centre closed on Friday, March 20. Owner Ray McDonald has furloughed his staff and also applied to the Coronavirus Business Support Fund (www.gcah.org.uk) for help.

He said: "We have fantastic staff and volunteers so we are hopeful that our valued customers will return over time. There could be some casualties on our high street. We all need to rally round as there are some wonderful businesses, charities, third sector enterprises offering support here. I’m proud to be part of this unique community and trust that everyone survives through this."

Kilted Fudge at 22 High Street has also been hit, particularly by the cancellation of events like the highland games, farm shows and food festivals, all major sources of income.

"Our staff have been furloughed," said director Stephen Bruce. "It's just me left to make the products and complete the online orders. After the lockdown period we will have to think outside the box and hope that our shops tick over. However, with the virus and the lockdown, we aren't even guaranteed tourist trade. We rely on them, particularly in the shops."

On the other hand, many local butchers are seeing increased trade, particularly online, as supermarkets struggle to cope with increased demand for meat.

Graeme Duffus has temporarily closed Fraser Bros Butchers shop at 72 High Street but has significantly increased deliveries to customers.

He said: "We've lost our wholesale trade with pubs, restaurants, hotels, primary and secondary schools but we're taking enough orders to keep our staff employed. The customers and staff have been brilliant and we really appreciate their support. We will continue this way until the situation


Similarly, Macbeth's Butchers at 11 Tolbooth Street have seen local sales "go through the roof", completing a month's trade online every few days.

Owner Jock Gibson said: "We are very lucky to be in our position. However, we are acutely aware of other businesses who are having to make very different decisions."

Back along the east end of High Street, extra staff at Murdoch Brothers butchers are working on Sundays and seeing the return of customers from supermarkets.

Owner Graham Murdoch said: "We are getting orders from customers we've never seen before - we appreciate that but we need to support our regulars first."

Butchers, cafés and sweetie-makers ... how about bakers?

Maclean's Highland Bakery managing director Lewis Maclean remains optimistic despite losing 75 per cent of his sales and furloughing a large number of staff.

He said: "It's been a case of day-to-day management over the last month. We are offering a limited range but at least we're open - other businesses were given no choice but to close.

"The level of support generally has been good. We are members of the Federation of Small Businesses and also get advice from our insurers."

He added: "This last week my deliveries have been great as folk are just delighted to see you! Even over the phone, you can tell they appreciate the chat more. Folk coming into the shop have been chatting for longer too, perhaps because they haven't had much of a chance elsewhere.

"We have a good, caring community in our small town. It's a nice feeling to be a part of it."

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