THERE is nothing more frustrating than trying to spend money in the town centre ... only to find that you can’t.
Last week I tried to buy a suit. Nothing fancy. Nothing with a designer name - just a suit.
Like most blokes I left it until the last-minute - previous experience should have told me otherwise.
Popped into Next’s gents department, or what is left of it now that it has been concertinaed into a corner. They had suits - two, to be precise. Neither said ‘‘pick me! pick me!’’
I was halfway through M & S -faithful old M&S, a shop that never ever lets you down - when I remembered they don’t stock suits any more, and double backed to Burton which did have suits but none in my size. One the bright side it did have a shipment arriving on Friday. Shame I needed the suit there and then.
End result? I gave up and went to Asda. Town Centre 0, Out Of Town 1.
By and large I’m quite happy to shop local and bung in the odd trip to Primark in Dunfermline when I want to pick clothes up off the floor and buy ‘em for a couple of quid.
There is no doubt Kirkcaldy’s ‘‘retail experience’’ - to use that ghastly buzz word - is pretty dire.
HMV’s imminent departure means the town will have no bona fide music outlet.
The fast food burger outlets have all gone - remember Burger King? - and while we still have a couple of coffee shops, the one in M&S which should have the most passing trade has been inexplicably hidden behind the rows of baffies. About as daft an idea as sticking a swimming pool in a car park...
It’s years since the last independent butcher shipped out, Miss Maude’s remains boarded up - shame the lights are still on, though - and the big sports chains are all decanting to the retail park.
And, as I found out last week, even buying a humble, plain that’ll-do-for-work suit is almost impossible.
It’d be easy to list the town centre’s many shortcomings from now until I run out of space, but that would be grossly unfair to the independent retailers working hard along Hunter Street and in the east and west ends of the High Street. It’d be a slight against the restaurant owners serving up some excellent food, and I’d be taken to task by those trying to fashion a new strategy for our town centre.
I do believe people still WANT to shop in their home town. They’d rather meet in the town centre than have to journey all the way to a retail park which brings new meaning to the word ‘soul-less.’
But they need more choice.
Maybe it’s time for a wee ‘‘shop local’’ campaign to put some pride back into the place.
Sure it’ll be knocked and mocked but that’s no reason not to do it.
Maybe we need to go further and get the town to nurture businesses which can fill the numerous wee shops no-one else wants anymore.
West Kilbride has opened the doors to lots of one-person businesses selling everything from scented candles to small eateries. End result?
A town no retail giant would even look at is now busier than ever - people come because theere’s more to browse, and the place has a nice wee buzz.
So, why can’t Kirkcaldy do likewise?
I’ve suggested before we need to build a creative hub as well - places where artists of all kinds can work together, share space and ideas and sell their products.
If to achieve that means tearing up some out-dated rule books and giving the Cooncil a wee kick into action then so be it.
This isn’t about rules and regulations - it’s about having a wee bit of vision and trying something different.
Doing nothing and watching the town stagnate is not an option.