Gift cards help businesses and ‘feel good’ for Helensburgh businesses

A Helensburgh company says the area’s new gift card is helping bring a “feel-good factor” to the local economy.

Helensburgh Cycles is one of more than 80 businesses in the area to sign up for the Argyll and Bute Gift Card, launched late last year.

Founded in 1994, cycle shop Kirsteen Hutcheson, who runs it with her father Alex McNee, said she could see the map as a positive from the start.

They have their own gift cards, like many companies, but the larger card allows customers to gift something more open to friends or loved ones. And it could introduce people to businesses they’ve never considered before.

Ms Hutcheson said: ‘It’s true what they say about buy local. If you buy from the big online retailers, that money is gone. But when you spend locally, you support families and individuals who live in the area who, in turn, support other businesses.

“There is also the feel-good factor. I know myself that when I shop locally it feels good to know that you support the area, but you also get to know the people.

“I can’t imagine what Helensburgh would be like without our independent businesses, and if we all support the Argyll and Bute Gift Card we can keep more money here locally and support our local businesses.”

Helensburgh Cycles sells bikes for all ages as well as e-bikes, accessories and utility bikes as needed.

The gift card can also be used for bike hire for one hour to two weeks, and e-bike rentals are popular with visitors heading to Loch Lomond for the day.

“The way people shop has changed,” Ms Hutcheson said. “Back then, my mum and dad would deliver hundreds of bikes on Christmas Eve, but now there’s so much competition.

“What you get when you buy from a local business like ours is a high level of service that you just can’t get online. If you have a problem with your bike, you can come and see us. A bike is a big purchase, so the service side makes a big difference. Over the years, customers have become good friends, and we have customers who are the third generation to shop with us.

“Cycling has been one of the lucky trades in the pandemic as we were allowed to stay open for repairs and for people to pick up orders. There was a big bike boom because everyone wanted to ride in their area, but other businesses in the area were doing local deliveries and meeting community needs in other ways. It was predicted that there would be an increase in the number of used bikes for sale, but it seems most people are hanging on to their bikes and keeping their healthy habits, and hopefully through ideas like the Argyll and Bute gift card, people will stick to the habit of buying local too.”

Michael N. Clark