Growing number of independent traders could hold key to Fife town centre revival

KCC Record Store, owned by Tony  Magee & son Adam (Pic: FPA)
KCC Record Store, owned by Tony Magee & son Adam (Pic: FPA)

The demise of Kirkcaldy High Street in recent times has been well documented and shows no sigh of slowing down.

However, despite the problems, the findings of the town centre survey has highlighted a number of positives including strong support for the town centre’s independent retailers.

Over 70 per cent of people said they used the small shops, and backed up their support with many comments on the quality of goods and level of service.

The survey also underlined that people want to see more niche retailers and independents filling the void left by the collapse or departure of the big chain stores.

Asked what they offer that chain stores can’t, the comments could summed up in two words used by many respondents – something different.

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Tony Magee’s business is offering just that.

KCC Record Store opened in the Merchant’s Quarter in November 2018 after a resurgence in demand for vinyl records.

“There is a vibe beginning to emerge at this end of the High Street, with other small retailers, but there needs to be more help for new starts wanting to open up,” said Tony.

“Free parking and events such as a monthly market would also boost trade and footfall.

“And crucially people need to actually support those independent retailers they say they want in the town.”

That individuality, along with good, personal service, is what many people believe is key to revitalising our town centre.

And it is a growth sector for the Lang Toun.

Kirkcaldy town centre has more independent traders than ever before, from the east end of the High Street along to Hunter Street.

That sector has been identified as one of the key components of the town centre of the future.

Traders in the east end have been working together to raise their profile and bring people the length of the High street, and that approach is beginning to pay dividends as they try to get ahead of the game before the closure of M&S.

But that profile will only thrive if there is a concerted effort to get vacant shops back open.

That’s the view of Nicola Davis manager of Wedding specialists Bows & Bells, in the Merchant’s Quarter.

“Shoppers need to be given a reason to come back to the town centre. If shops are open then people will come,” Nicola told the Press.

“Small independent retailers opening a shop for the first time need all the help they can get and a move to reduce business rates for, say, the first 12 months of trading would be a massive help to any new businesses trying to get established.

“That support has to come from the likes of Fife Council in the first instance if new businesses are to be given any chance of surviving these days.

And competition from fellow traders is something that Nicola says would work in both the retailers and the town’s favour.

“There used to be seven bridal shops in the town centre and that competition was actually a positive thing.

“Just a few years ago people planning their weddings would come to Kirkcaldy for the day from as far afield as Aberdeen because of the amount of specialist shops and that would provide an added knock on for the town centre in general.

“That’s largely gone because shops are now vacant.

“Despite the present economic climate, our sales of school prom dresses alone indicates that people do want to come and spend it on the High Street.

“They just need to be given the choice and that retail experience otherwise it will continue to gravitate towards online sales and continued growth of internet shopping.”