The sad decline of The Postings: From shopping mecca to an empty mall

Kirkcaldy town centre was a very different place when The Postings Shopping Centre first opened its doors in 1981.

Thursday, 10th June 2021, 1:33 pm

The High Street still had all the big names - from Woolworths to BhS and Littlewoods - and it remained the jewel in the Kingdom’s retail crown; a reputation that had been forged on the back of a vibrant mix from a previous generation.

Few provincial High Streets can sustain two shopping centres, far less two in such close proximity, but The Postings made a confident start as it joined the bigger Mercat Shopping Centre as a destination for residents and visitors.

It was billed as a shopping mecca - one that would attract investment and trade with ever-increasing force for many years.

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An advert from the Fife Free Press in 1984 promoting the 'one stop shop' Postings Centre
An advert from the Fife Free Press in 1984 promoting the 'one stop shop' Postings Centre

That bold claim was made in the run-up to its launch in July 1981.

Critics – and there were many – claimed that there were already too many shops on the expanding High Street, and increased competition could force some businesses to the wall.

However, figures at the time from Kirkcaldy and District Chamber of Commerce showed that the town had more shopping space per head of population than Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen – 9.4 per square feet compared to the then Scottish average of 6.13.

Taking the Fife Free Press for a sneak peek at the Postings, built at a cost of £4.2m, before it opened its doors to the public was John Devine, a partner of the centre’s letting agents Graham & Sibbald.

Isla St Clair filming for BBC's The One Show on the sale of The Postings - she opened Wm Low supermarket there in 1981. Pictured with editor, Allan Crow

“Look, when outside money does not come into town, that is when it is time to start worrying,” he said.

“And where are all these empty units on the High Street that people are talking about?

“There are some problems tied up with units, but there is plenty of demand for all of them – and the Co-op at the west end of the High Street has just been taken over by a ladies’ outfitters.”

The Postings was made up of 17 shop units which would exist alongside the centre’s main attraction, the Wm Low supermarket which took up over half the centre’s space.

The Postings, Kirkcaldy (Pic:Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

It also had a direct link to the bus station giving it a constant footfall.

Seven of the 17 units were set to be filled ahead of its’ opening, with the developers more than confident of bringing another ten names to town.

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The original seven included a chemist, fruiterer, off-licence, sports dealer, electrical supplier and fashion shop.

The outside of the Postings, now rebranded as The Kirkcaldy Centre

In a special feature, the Fife Free Press also advised its readers to pay special attention to the “£50,000 lighting system which gives startling illumination to the shopping mall”.

In truth, it was probably more remembered for its infamous crumbling staircase that led to the High Street.

Chris Dobson of the Postings’ developers, North British Properties of Gosforth, confirmed there was plenty interest in the centre and Kirkcaldy in general, and claimed that a similar development in Gosforth had forced other retailers to “spruce up” their own shops in response to the new competition.

He said his company had done a lot of research and had pinpointed Kirkcaldy as a potential shoppers’ paradise.

“Kirkcaldy is a very prosperous shopping area,” he said, “it will attract more shoppers to the area, helping High Street traders in general.”

However, Mr Dobson told the Press that there was one minor snag ahead of the Postings’ opening – its rooftop car park.

North British and Fife Regional Council had failed to reach an agreement, which meant that its 300 parking spaces were lying unused - very much like today.

It was hoped that a compromise could be reached before the scheduled opening date of July 7, particularly as 150 spaces at the Esplanade had recently been lost due to building work being undertaken in connection with the second phase of the construction of the Mercat Shopping Centre.

In the 1980s, Ramsay Travel was the place everyone went to book their holiday. The Postings also boasted a fish shop and a bakers, a large sports shop which then became a card shop, and many an hour was spent rifling through the racks of HINRG Records. It was also home to a tourist information centre.

The first small traders all squeezed into the rather fancily named Knightsbridge arcade which offered everything from TV repairs, sewing and tailoring to computer repairs when the very first PCs came on to the scene. The shutters were long since pulled down on the pale green and beige market stall units.

But did the £4.2m development ever live up to the hype?

The Postings was built simply because the demand for shops was there - but as that diminished so it started to fade.

The Posting’s decline has mirrored that of retail across the High Street.

Owners Columbia Threadneedle did little with the centre before deciding to offload at auction a pitiful £1 price tag.

That brought BBC’s One Show to town complete Isla St Clair to reminisce about the day she opened the original Wm Low store - an event which went unrecorded because the Fife Free Press reporters were on strike at the time!

She came in 2019, and the writing was already on the wall.

It’s impossible to under estimate the impact Tesco’s closure had on footfall in 2015 - it simply never recovered.

Six years and one pandemic later, it is about to stand empty for the very first time since it was built.

It isn’t the end of the story for The Postings, but it does mark its the end of its days as shopping centre for sure.

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