Just last week business lobby group the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) revised downward its forecast for growth for the remainder of the year, while the most recent figures from the ONS (Office for National Statistics) revealed the economy is still in recession and had again contracted between April and June, albeit the slowdown wasn’t as marked as previously predicted.
Given the blanket media coverage such statements tend to generate, business owners in our trade could be forgiven for feeling less than enthusiastic about their immediate prospects.
But if one delves beyond the headlines there can still be found many examples of businesses that are not only holding their own but growing.
That’s certainly true across the Scottish licensed trade, as we have found during this summer’s judging visits for the 2012 SLTN Awards.
The categories I’ve been involved in have re-affirmed that our industry remains blessed with talented and hard-working operators who, supported by loyal and dedicated staff, have found a way to move their businesses forward seemingly against the odds.
Sometimes it’s meant significant sacrifice: with bank lending all but drying up, we have seen operators taking major personal risks to fund expansion plans or renovation projects, such is the faith they have in their ideas.
And talking of vision, there continues to be evidence in the Scottish trade of genuine entrepreneurial talent.
We have one great example in this issue (page 8) in the shape of Edinburgh operator Michael McGuigan, owner of The Shilling Group. It’s fair to say The Fountain, in the city’s Fountainbridge area, wasn’t in the best shape when Michael first checked it out. But he instinctively saw its potential and is now reaping the rewards after a bold refurbishment and the introduction of the right offer.
In our judging visits we have also witnessed plenty of creativity, with operators marketing (often using social media) offers and attractions which are worth consumers leaving the comfort of their own homes for.
And occasionally we see trade people taking on projects with goals beyond the benefit of their own businesses. Take Stephen McDonald, the owner of Lounge and Room in Largs, who devoted more than a hundred hours of his time to bring a three-day music festival to the Ayrshire town earlier this summer. You can read about how the event brought enormous benefit to a whole host of businesses ‘doon the watter’ on page 20.
As we continue the judging process, and indeed as we put the pages of SLTN together each fortnight, we encounter scores of people who put themselves out there, day after day, to bring a little light into people’s lives during these difficult times.
Many are working harder than ever, but the standard of product and service they are delivering is rising in turn. In my view they deserve enormous credit.