“Positive” response to online retail scheme

Forfar’s independent retailers have heard how they could be doing more to raise their online business as well as the town’s profile.

At a meeting hosted in Glamis Castle by the Earl of Strathmore, local traders were told about the My High Street website, which brings together independent traders from across the country, as well as its Target 200 initiative which is run in conjunction with the British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA).

Launched at the end of last year, Target 200 aims to take 200 High Streets across the country and their thousands of retailers on to the internet. It aims to boost online business as customer footfall on the streets themselves which have suffered due to the recession and an increase in online trading.

Loaye Agabani, co-founder of My High Street, said the site and campaign offer retailers and the wider communities the ideal chance to market themselves online.

He said: “It’s a new way for retailers to use technology at a low cost, building on current customers and help to drive customers into shops and High Streets.

“The important thing is to make it a destination online. Every High Street has something special about it and we try to support that. It’s driven by community.”

The site works by retailers and other businesses opening their own e-commerce store and as more join they are grouped together by town until, eventually, the community is profiled in terms of goods and services, as well as local promotions and form its own ‘brand’.

Mr Agabani added: “We launched Target 200 in October to get 200 towns online, and BIRA is a key partner in the campaign, to get customers who have lost faith with independent retailers to come back and we’re the only solution that’s proactive and doesn’t take long to get going. We’re working together as retailers to do something ourselves, rather than waiting for government to come up with a solution.”

Lord Strathmore, who since 2005 has owned David Irons & Sons hardware store on Castle Street, said he felt the meeting had been “very positive” with a generally good response from those attending.

He said: “Talking to people afterwards, I think it’s got the possibility of being a ‘goer’. It’s not hugely expensive and if we can combine forces there is a possibility of improving the town website within context and in terms of an overall Angus website.

“There’s not much online to attract visitors as it stands. We have to unite, and if we do we’ll have a bit more clout.”

An early supporter of the initiative was Billy Whitton, of Whittons Flooring Ltd, who said its benefits are obvious.

He said: “We’re 100 per cent behind it and feel that we have to do this. We should support anyone who tries to keep things within the community. We’ll be happy to do anything to make this possible.”

More about the Target 200 campaign can be found online at http://www.bira.co.uk/myhighst/target-200