The Rein­ven­tion Of The High Street

A decade on from the crip­pling ef­fects of the re­ces­sion, Scot­tish town cen­tres are en­joy­ing a re­nais­sance

The Scots Magazine - - Wild About Scotland - By LAURA COVEN­TRY

EMPTY shop units, clos­ing down sales and de­serted streets – these were all com­mon sights on a typ­i­cal Scot­tish high street dur­ing the eco­nomic down­turn. Crip­pling rates, ris­ing in­fla­tion, the on­line shop­ping boom and the growth of out-of-town shop­ping cen­tres forced many re­tail­ers out of busi­ness, leav­ing few sur­viv­ing in our once-bustling town cen­tres.

The so-called “death of the high street” had be­gun, and in many ar­eas con­tin­ues, driv­ing shop­pers away.

How­ever, 10 years af­ter the 2007/2008 fi­nan­cial cri­sis, many dy­ing shop­ping streets in our neigh­bour­hoods are be­ing slowly re­sus­ci­tated – and rein­vented – which has led to prof­its and a rise in foot­fall in many com­mu­ni­ties across Scot­land.

One ini­tia­tive boost­ing lo­cal high street trade is Busi­ness Improve­ment Dis­tricts (BIDS).

These are man­aged and paid for by lo­cal busi­nesses through a com­pul­sory fee, and are prov­ing suc­cess­ful in dozens of ar­eas. There are cur­rently 40 BIDS op­er­at­ing in Scot­land with a fur­ther 40 in the pipe­line or at the bal­lot stage.

A BID’S main ob­jec­tive, ac­cord­ing to its par­ent or­gan­i­sa­tion Busi­ness Improve­ment Dis­tricts Scot­land, is to “ad­dress lo­cal is­sues and con­cerns and de­liver re­sults”.

By giv­ing com­mu­ni­ties op­por­tu­ni­ties to ap­ply for fund­ing, stage pub­lic events and im­prove their shop fronts, BIDS are breath­ing new life into fail­ing lo­cal high streets and re-stor­ing com­mu­ni­ties.

In the west of Scot­land, there are many BID suc­cess sto­ries – one is the cam­paign in Glas­gow’s south­side called My Shaw­lands.

Its co­or­di­na­tor Lisa Mclaugh­lin said, “Shaw­lands Busi­ness As­so­ci­a­tion mem­bers were frus­trated that they had no power to make a dif­fer­ence, but we felt the BID was the best ve­hi­cle to get con­trol.

“Has the high street been re­vived? Ab­so­lutely, yes. You still get busi­nesses clos­ing which is very sad, but they are not empty for long, and we have a whole host of dif­fer­ent firms in Shaw­lands now.”

In Shaw­lands, since April 2017, al­most 40 new busi­nesses have been launched, and it is dif­fer­ent kinds of shops which re­flect the na­tional rise in the num­ber cafés, tea­rooms, restau­rants and bars open­ing across Scot­land.

It’s not just the BIDS that are boost­ing our high streets – Scot­land’s Towns Part­ner­ship (STP) also aims to “se­cure a pos­i­tive fu­ture for Scot­land’s towns”.

In Septem­ber, it launched a new scheme, build­ing on the BID model, called Next Gen­er­a­tion BIDS or Improve­ment Dis­tricts.

“Quite sim­ply it is about a re­freshed and more struc­tured cor­po­rate-com­mu­nity-pub­lic part­ner­ship vi­sion,” says the ac­com­pa­ny­ing STP re­port.

One Scot­tish town that is al­ready ben­e­fits from this type of “cor­po­rate-com­mu­nity-pub­lic part­ner­ship” is hap­pen­ing 18 miles away from Shaw­lands, in Motherwell. Here, there has been a sim­i­lar suc­cess story and that’s largely down to one woman – Geral­dine El Mas­rour, cen­tre man­ager at the Motherwell Shop­ping Cen­tre. 

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