Island View: Independent shops the norm on Bute

Montague Street is populated mostly by independent traders, making a day out in Rothesay a unique shopping experience.
Montague Street is populated mostly by independent traders, making a day out in Rothesay a unique shopping experience.

One of the things that many visitors to Bute tend to notice first is the lack of big name brands on Rothesay’s streets.

Though many other towns the size of Rothesay might have a Starbucks outlet or maybe a McDonald’s, Rothesay is conspicuous for the prevalence of independent, locally owned and operated shops.

If you discount the banks and the Lloyds pharmacies, the only chain stores that come to mind are the two Co-op shops (and the various supermarkets that previously occupied Bridge Street, not to mention the old Woolworths on Montague Street), Londis and Superdrug.

These bigger names provide a useful niche of items that might just be too difficult to source regularly on a small island, but otherwise people tend to get by shopping with independent businesses, getting their news, books and day-to-day goods from shops run entirely on Bute.

Independent traders can go a step further in integrating with their community. A great example is the Print Point bookstore, which has cultivated a loyal customer base through good service (and good coffee).

Shoppers can build up real relationships with the people behind the counter (though of course this can be true of chains as well), and the ideal is that everyone has a stake in local businesses doing well.

This could be encouraging for the long-term economic outlook for Rothesay: it might reassure businesses looking to move to the island to see that people will support well-run companies operating here.

This is what the Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Bute Island Alliance have attempted to do, to build relationships between groups and initiatives in Rothesay and elsewhere.