A COUSIN of the Queen is spearheading a campaign to make Forfar the first town in Scotland to sign up to a retail platform which will allow independent shops to sell goods online.
Lord Strathmore, who lives at Glamis Castle in Angus, is leading a drive to convince local retailers to sign up for MyHigh.St which he believes could be a lifeline for independent shops unable to sustain their own internet shopping site.
The peer, who bought 150-year-old Forfar ironmonger David Irons & Sons nine years ago amid fears the premises could be taken over by a burger chain or bar operator, will host a meeting in the castle’s drawing room this week in a bid to drum up support for the plan.
“I’m getting as many of the independent retailers as possible in Forfar to come along,” said Michael Fergus Bowes-Lyon, the 18th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne.
“As well as providing a platform for online shopping, I’m hoping that the idea will bring Forfar retailers and the community together. At the moment, you look at the town’s website and you see a picture of a bridie and a man playing football – that’s not exactly going to make Americans want to come and visit.”
The earl hopes that businesses in the market town such as sweet shop Small’s Confectionery, which was believed to be a favourite of the Queen Mother when she resided at Glamis Castle, will sign up.
Speaking of his own shop, he said: “We haven’t started retailing online ourselves yet – it’s just too difficult as a small independent business, but it is the future. It is an uphill struggle against the supermarkets and the bigger stores and, of course, internet shopping.”
MyHigh.St was launched in Wells, Somerset, in October and allows independent retailers to sell their goods to a wider customer base.
The site is divided into geographical “high streets”, so that shoppers can select goods in the same way as if they were visiting a town’s high street.
The project has been piloted in Scotland in Cupar, Fife, where six businesses are selling their wares online, but Forfar would be the first to take on full community involvement.
Alasdair Straker, regional spokesman for the British Independent Retailers Association said the scheme was targeting 200 retail communities across the UK.