The raw data paints a very different picture of Kirkcaldy’s town centre.
While national chains have collapsed and pulled out, the heartbeat of the town remains strong, according to the annual report from Kirkcaldy4All.
The town has a higher turnover than that of Falkirk and Dunfermline.
Its 700 businesses generated a turnover in 2013 of £563m.
That’s higher than Dunfermline which produced £469m with 75 more businesses - and it beats the £497m in Falkirk.
The figures were given last night (Wednesday) to the BID company’s annual general meeting at St Bryce Kirk - the final one before it sets out to win a ’yes’ vote of its own in a 2015 ballot in which all levy payers will be asked to back the BID and give it a second term of office.
If they don’t, the town centre will have no dedicated body to represent it or lead on a wide range of projects.
The positives in the report will help when Kdy4All begins its campaign to win the backing of the 400 businesses within the BID zone which covers the town centre.
The BID - a Business Improvement District - was formed in 2010 with the aim of promoting Kirkcaldy’s town centre.
The independent report, carried out by Kirkcaldy company 4-consulting, shows that it met nearly all of its objectives set out in its business plan four years ago.
Bill Harvey, Kirkcaldy4All manager, said that he was pleased with the progress - but there was still a lot of work to be done.
“It’s been a big year for us,” he said.
“It’s an independent report and the most telling thing for me are the KPIs - key performance indicators - in which we’ve met nearly all of our objectives.”
Bill said that the BID faces a tough challenge in changing attitudes towards Kirkcaldy, a town which he describes as “vibrant”.
“The two biggest jobs for Kirkcaldy4All is to change our own people’s perception of the town and to establish better lines of communication.
“I think people are conditioned to think the worst. What we’re trying to do is be positive, but it’s very hard.
“We’re a small team and we can’t cure all the ills and woes of Kirkcaldy, but we give it our best shot and we try and do something. If we weren’t here there would be far more negativity.
“Also, for so long, decisions regarding the town centre, and other areas in Kirkcaldy, have been made out of town, by people who don’t have in interest in the town.
“The task for us is to establish a rapport with them which I think we’re doing.”
But the report has a caveat as the BID prepares for a 2015 ballot when all levy payers vote on whether it should continue.
It notes: ‘’If Kirkcaldy4All is lost, Kirkcaldy could be exposed as the only large town centre in Fife without a vehicle for collective action.”
That pivotal role was highlighted by Suzie Hall, BID co-ordinator, as key.
“Phase three of the High Street regeneration is a really good example of different groups coming together,” she said. “We stepped in and got members together and held a consultation meeting one evening in O’Connells.
“There was a really good turn out and I think that shows us working well as an influence.”
Bill points to parking as “probably the most emotive subject in the town” and says: “We’re making inroads.
“It’s one subject everyone talks about, so what we’re saying to the Council is - work with us, listen to what we’re saying, invest in the condition of parking. It doesn’t need to cost hundreds of thousands of pounds.
“It’s getting the Council to think about these things and that way we’ll bring more people into the town centre, its revenue and income will go up, and it will get a return on its investment.”
The report also hails the success of last year’s Fife International Carnival, which returns this summer.
Bill said: “The official figure for the day was 19,000 but it was much more than that. The footfall counters actually tripped because there were so many people there.
“I think that the public see us as just an events company, but we’re far more than that. We’re all about getting into the fabric of what makes this town go.
“We are an integral part of Fife’s economy and sometimes I’m bemused that there’s not more effort put into establishing us.”
Since it was formed in April the BID has created town centre business support and business advisory support programmes.
“We’ve given out 84 small business grants which have helped.
“Just a little light at the end of the tunnel which shows business owners that there’s someone out there trying to help.
BID members will vote whether to keep it in January and Bill says that he thinks they’ve made changes for the better.
“That’s a very subjective view for the people of course, but if we weren’t allowed to continue for whatever reason, what would come in our place?
“There’s a real buzz starting to happen around the town to make it a better place and with our help, collective action is really starting to happen.”
The report is available at www.kirkcaldy4all.co.uk.