THE loss of Tolbooth Street car park has been blamed again for the closure of more High Street shops.
The boss of Carlton Bakeries said the decision to turn the busy car park into a building site for the town’s new swimming pool was the ‘‘death knell’’ for his outlet in The Mercat and the long-standing Miss Maude’s cafe.
Both closed last week with the loss of around 14 jobs.
Graeme Simpson, boss of the popular Fife bakery chain, said he had no choice but to call in the administrators as the number of customers plunged.
Carleton brought down the shutters on its premises in the Mercat - and also the Kingdom Centre, Glenrothes, but the move did not affect its other local shops which include Whytescauseway - its only town centre unit left - Victoria Road, Dunearn Drive, St Clair Street and Valley Gardens in Kirkcaldy and also in Leven, Cadham, Glenrothes and Markinch. It also continues to operate its bakery from Wemyss Road, Dysart.
These premises are keeping the Carlton name but have been taken over by Glenrothes-based food product manufacturer, William Mcmillan Ltd.
Mr Simpson thanked customers for their continued support following the shock closure.
He told the Press it was “devastating” to have to close Miss Maude’s cafe and the Carlton outlet inside the Mercat, but that the drop in footfall - along with the high rent rates - left him with no option but to bring in the administrators KPMG.
Mr Simpson confirmed the shutters were also brought down on Carlton’s shops in Unicorn Way and Lyon Way in the Kingdom Centre, Glenrothes for the same reasons.
He said: “It was devastating to have to close Miss Maude’s and the Carlton inside the Mercat.
“I was really sad to see them go along with the staff who worked there, but it was a double whammy which caused it - footfall in the Mercat went down beyond belief and the high rentals made it too difficult to continue trading.
“The death knell came when the Council closed Tolbooth Street car park for the swimming pool development.
“The lack of car parking close to the shops definitely affected footfall.
‘‘If people can’t park close to the town centre they won’t shop there. Convenience is the name of the game.
“We are a family business, not a multi-national and we are having to fight for our trade. It’s really tough on the streets just now.”
Mr Simpson continued; “I have some really good staff. They are excellent and have a good rapport with the customers.
‘‘We have managed to keep the staff in our nine stores in Fife and we are now going to concentrate and build on them.
‘‘We have some great quality products and good customer service and we want people to keep coming in to support their local Carlton shops.”
He added: “There won’t be any more store closures. We are upbeat about the future.
“I just want to thank all our regular customers for all their support - we welcome them along to our remaining stores in Kirkcaldy and elsewhere in Fife.”