Kirkcaldy town centre: ‘We need to look at a business model that works’

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Two pictures taken from the same spot almost 40 years apart tell the story of our High Street and how times have changed.

One taken in 1978, one in 2018; one is packed with faces, the other is almost empty.

And soon, the focal point – the M&S store – will also have gone.

The days when big retail names packed our town centre – look closely and you will recognise names such as Ratners and Currys – have gone, and not just from Kirkcaldy.

But the imminent loss of M&S has started an urgent debate on where our High Street goes from here.

Amby Stanyer-Hunter (pictured) is in no doubt – the future is good, but only if we embrace change.

CLICK HERE TO HAVE YOUR SAY ON THE FUTURE OF KIRKCALDY TOWN CENTRE

He has owned businesses in the east end of town and currently runs Pole O Rama in the Oympia Arcade.

And he believes the leisure and entertainment scene is the key to creating a new era.

He said: “There was a time when there were no big stores or massive shopping centres.

“But there was always entertainment – cinemas, dance halls and bowling alleys.”
Transforming the M&S into a marketplace to encourage a new generation of ‘traditional’ traders – a grocer, baker, health shop and so on– is one idea which, he believes, would tie into a town centre that takes its cue from the east end of the High Street, and builds around a collective of independent, niche traders.

“The town may never see a High Street full of shops again, but in no way does that mean it should be empty,” he said.

“With major retailers bailing, this is the ideal time to look at what is working in the town –the Merchants Quarter.

“We have a section of the High Street where virtually every shop unit is full, where we have diversity, and where the owners are independent and support each other.

“This is the business model that will eventually win, because small independent retailers offer services overlooked by the larger stores.”

And, wrapped round them, he believes, has to be a vibrant leisure sector which gives people reasons to come into the town centre.

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That could mean turning huge empty units such as Tesco, M&S and BhS into a cinema, dance hall, bowling alley or indoor skate park – venues which appeal to different markets at different times of the day, making the area buzz with activity day and night.

He said: “Let’s stop dreaming about filling units with retail.

“Let’s fill them with leisure activities that get people back in the town centre, and actually benefitting their lives in a healthy positive way.

“Let’s have a change of minds and a change of hearts and make this town great
 again, because it has all the potential.

“It just needs the support!”

And he has one project as the flagship.

And he has a clear view that one project has to be at the forefront – the Kings Theatre.

READ MORE: Kirkcaldy town centre has a duty to evolve says Mercat boss

“The shining crown in this area should be the Kings Theatre,” he said.

“The entire town should be backing this project with all its heart and any spare time people have.”

“You want to build a better town?

“Then get off your couch and go help build it!

“Get down there, ask questions, challenge the committee, get writing, donate time, raise money, and give this project the the time, money and respect it deserves.”

“I fully support anything that offers employment, aesthetic improvement and facilities to be used by the public!

“Stop thinking about how bad things are and start thinking about how amazing things could be!”

READ MORE: Kirkcaldy town centre needs a ‘can do’ approach