The Reinvention Of The High Street
A decade on from the crippling effects of the recession, Scottish town centres are enjoying a renaissance
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.