The selfless shopkeeper crowned Scotland’s High Street Hero has issued a rallying cry for the nation to Choose Local, safeguarding thousands of jobs and building stronger communities.
Marion Gilliland received her heroine accolade at last year’s Scotland Loves Local Awards in recognition of her massive contribution to life and business in Cumnock, East Ayrshire.
She is now backing the campaign’s calls for people to unlock potentially millions of pounds worth of spending in their region by thinking local first and backing businesses of all kinds in their community this summer.
It comes as leaders of the Scotland Loves Local campaign – backed by the Scottish Government – say the need for everyone to choose local is as great as when the country emerged from its first Covid-19 lockdown in 2020.
Marion, owner of gift shop Presents and Correct, said: “I wouldn’t have been in business here for 35 years without local support. It’s the lifeblood of businesses like mine.
“It’s customer service that makes all the difference. We know our customers personally and go above and beyond to help them. We’re all part of each other’s lives.
“It’s so important that people choose local. It keeps our communities vibrant, keeps businesses alive and protects jobs. None of us wants to see more empty buildings in town centres. If everyone chooses local more often we may even be able to bring more businesses of all kinds back into our high streets.”
Scotland Loves Local is the campaign spearheaded by Scotland’s Towns Partnership (STP) to make the nation’s communities stronger through grassroots action.
Born as the nation emerged from the first Covid-19 lockdown, Scotland Loves Local has evolved into a campaign for longer-term good – encouraging people to make the places they live better by supporting the people and businesses around them.
STP Interim Chief Officer Kimberley Guthrie said: “The cost of living and the cost of doing business is pushing so many local businesses to the edge. For many, the challenges are as great as they were at the peak of the coronavirus pandemic.
“They need our support. The impact of getting behind them is huge – directing millions of pounds-worth of spending into local communities, protecting thousands of jobs and providing the foundations of work from which we can continue to build better places in which to live, work and visit.
“We need to begin a permanent shift in thinking local first this summer, whether for shopping, days out or simply local businesses trading with each other. Doing so will support our ongoing recovery from Covid-19, help with the cost of living crisis and in our response to the climate emergency – creating a stronger, more sustainable economy.”
Marion Gilliland was named the nation’s High Street Hero after Scotland Loves Local Awards judges heard how she had not only made her Townhead Street store a safe place for all, but has helped secure tens of thousands of pounds of improvements for other businesses, goes above and beyond to meet customers’ needs, champions charitable causes and much more.
It’s work she has done individually and as well as a leading light in Cumnock Business Association, of which she is a former chairperson.
Marion’s mum, Isabel Gilliland, worked in the same shop building before her family took over the business – and she served her first customer there aged just eight years old.
On running a successful local business, Marion said: “It’s all about being a decent human being. It’s that simple. If you’re decent with people they’re going to come back to you. That’s what we try to do here. People are going to remember a good person and good service.”
People across the country are also being urged to spend using the Scotland Loves Local Gift Card, ensuring the money they spend stays local for longer by directly supporting shops, attractions and jobs in the area. Businesses and charities are also being encouraged to use them as rewards.