KEEP IT LOCAL: Customer service and helping the local economy

Sandy Higson has made a new range of 11 Geordie Mustards.
Picture by Jane Coltman

Sandy Higson has made a new range of 11 Geordie Mustards. Picture by Jane Coltman

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‘We are here, but without you, there is no us!’ That is the message from one trader to urge shoppers to Keep It Local and support local businesses.

It comes as we relaunch our campaign to promote the benefits of supporting the rich variety of outlets in our towns and villages throughout north Northumberland.

Passionate traders say there are many advantages for customers who use shops on their doorstep, including the level of customer service, knowledge of the product and bolstering the local economy.

And there is no better time to start than this weekend, during Small Business Saturday, which is a national initiative encouraging shoppers to buy locally.

As part of this, traders in Alnwick are banding together to get involved, with seasonal special offers in a number of outlets around the town.

To coincide with this, a two-day Christmas market will be staged in the Market Place, with music, entertainment and street food.

Carlo Biagioni, who runs Carlo’s Fish and Chip Shop and is chairman of Alnwick Chamber of Trade, said: “Everyone is welcome and some of the shops will serve drinks and nibbles and offer special deals. We are hoping it’s going to be well supported by everyone.

“Independent businesses are the life blood of a market town and every pound spent locally stays local, so come to Alnwick and enjoy the day.”

There will be plenty on offer for visitors to the Christmas market, which runs from 9am to 4pm on Saturday and 10am to 3pm on Sunday. More than 40 stalls are booked, mulled wine will be available and there will be children’s activities in the Northumberland Hall.

Santa and his elves will be in the Market Place on both days, while there will also be face-painting, carol singing, live music, street entertainment and a visit from the Barnacre Alpacas.

Backing Small Business Saturday, Moira Ging, of Fenkle Street-based Mojo Toys, said: “It’s a brave thing to run a small business in this world full of large chain stores and online outlets.

“Events like Small Business Saturday and the Christmas market help raise awareness of all the wonderful businesses right here in our local town.

“Applaud those who are going against the grain and offering something unique by shopping locally.”

Another trader to bang the drum for local businesses is David Girdwood, of The Good Life Shop, in Wooler.

He said: “It is absolutely essential that people shop locally. It really is an important message; we are here, but without you, there is no us! Times have moved on and the retail scene has changed, but we are grateful to those who still continue to support us.”

The quality of local shops was recognised last year in Amble, when the town won the Coastal Community category in the Great British High Street Awards, pipping Prestatyn and Bognor Regis to the title.

But The Friendliest Port is not resting on its laurels and chairman of Amble Business Club, Ann Burke, is keen to stress just how important it is for people to shop locally.

She said: “It is a case of use it or lose it. In a small community, the money spent goes back into the town.

“The businesses work very hard to bring what they do to the town and appreciate when people shop locally. Among the benefits is the personal service. We have time for you and know our product.”

If there is one person who knows the benefits of supporting local businesses and promoting Northumberland produce, it is Sandy Higson, aka The Mad Jam Woman.

Operating from her base in Bridge Street, Amble, she makes various products,including sauces, chutneys, relishes and preserves.

She has just launched a range of Geordie Mustards, using local products such as Alnwick Rum and ale from Amble-based Credence Brewing.

Sandy is also involved in the Produced in Northumberland scheme; an initiative promoting Northumberland food and building on the county’s culinary tourism.

She said: “It is very important to use local products and support local businesses and a lot of the tourists want local produce. Maybe I am biased, but I think Northumberland produce is top class.”

Sandy decided to create her range of quirky-tasting Geordie Mustards after customers kept asking for different flavoured condiments.

The flavours are: Alnwick Rum; Alnwick Stout; Garlic; Whisky; Credence Blonde Ale; Chilli; Newcastle Brown Ale; Horseradish; Honey; and original. And for the brave, there’s the Mustard for Maniacs, which contains the world’s hottest chilli pepper, The Carolina Reaper.

She said: “I am pleased with the range. I thought I would experiment and it has been an interesting process. I am particularly proud of the Alnwick Rum flavour. It is really nice; I use a full bottle of rum in each batch.”