While the amount of money generally being spent on Christmas seems to be falling with people tightening their belts, it seems speciality shops are managing to buck that trend.
Cupar jeweller and watchmaker Eric Young said he has been delighted by an upturn in trade over the last few months and said sales are doing far better Christmas than last year.
Diamonds continue to be a girl’s best friend with sales of eternity rings increasing, as well as requests for charm bracelets.
Mr Young said: “I think people are seeing jewellery and watches as affordable, quality gifts that have the personal touch. Gold and gemstones are extremely popular and I think when it comes to special occasions, people are prepared to go that wee bit further. Business has been good since October and has picked up in the last few weeks with November being an excellent month. We have people coming from all over which, I think, helps too.”
Similarly, Hilda Scott of Scott’s Ladieswear said she has been busy with many people choosing to come to Cupar from the likes of Edinburgh.
“I often get people coming in here who seem surprised that we dont just have one of the things they are looking fo but two or three different options!
“The most popular items at the moment are knitwear, nightwear, scarves and gloves which have been selling well since October. I think more people are shopping earlier and spreading the cost of Christmas.”
Vince Fusaro, owner of Luvians bottleshop and delicatessen, said trade is good but could be better.
“We strive to give customers what they want with good customer service, but despite that our margins are being squeezed. Trade is roughly the same as last year but we would hope to pick up in the next couple of days.”
The manageress of Cupar’s Lighthouse cafe and bookshop said it has enjoyed the knock-on effect of people visiting the town for speciality items available at Youngs, Scotts and Luvians amongst others.
“Our Christian bookshop has done really well in the run up to Christmas; we have a lot of loyal customers and a people seem to want to buy cards with the real Christmas message. I don’t think as many people are buying unneccessary, frivolous items that they may have in the past.”
Gifts like chocolates and biscuits are proving popular in Patersons grocery shop where staff say they have been busy for weeks.
However, owner Audrey Grant said she is expecting to be rushed off her feet today (Friday) and tomorrow as people stock up on their supplies of fruit and veg.
“We are a lot busier than last year, probably because the snow put a lot of people off last year.”
One speciality shop not doing as well as it might is Hidden Secrets Lingerie.
Owner Karen Lindsay said she thinks people mistakenly believe Cupar’s prices are higher while in fact, she said, her stock is actually cheaper than a leading Dundee department store.
“I think if we want people to shop in Cupar, we need to get the message across that just because we’re independent it doesn’t mean we are more expensive. If you think about it my stock is less expensive and shoppers would also save time and reduce their fuels costs by shopping locally!”
Graeme Black, owner of children’s clothing store Funky Rascal echoed her sentiments saying that shoppers need to realise that big cities and big supermarkets don’t neccesarily mean better value for money.
“Shops have to offer something different and that will attract people into the town as well as trade within it; our takings are well up this year and we are very pleased. We did think the recession would be bad for us but people are shopping around and realising that shopping locally makes sense.”
Nappy Pin and Toymaster store owner Paul Stewart said sales of Lego are proving popular but said in general people are just not spending like they used to.
“People simply dopn’t have the money any more; the cost of living is up and people just aren’t spending the same.”
He believes the town should look at Broughty Ferry if it wants to improve its appeal.
“I have a shop in Cupar, one in Dundee and one in Broughty Ferry and its that one that’s doing best. Until a few years ago it had the same problems as Cupar but now the whole shopping environment has been looked at and is so much better. People view it as a ‘shopping experience’ and can browse the coffee shops and gift shops for what they want. Cupar really lacks that.”
Mr Stewart said his greatest competition comes from the internet as well as from larger retailers who can sell for a loss, something he couldn’t contemplate doing.
“The situation will only get worse if Cupar gets a new Tesco, that will decimate trade in the town.”
n Cupar’s Christmas Farmers’ Market was one of the best ever on Saturday.
Market co-ordinator Barbara Wardlaw said: “ Most stallholders had their best market ever and obviously weather helped! What was really nice was customers commenting on the amazing choice available, and having the right balance between food and other types of stalls selling non-food items. Two shop owners in the Crossgate told me it was great we were there as they were also having a really busy day!
“We felt people were buying more food than normal. Maybe not spending so much on gifts this year and deciding to have large gathering of family and friends for a meal instead.”