Ever changing landscape of our town centres as shops come and go
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It was sad to see My Cherry Pie become an online business, and move out of the east end of the High Street which has become something of a haven for independent traders. The hope is someone will move into its small unit - it stands a better chance of being filled than those ghastly boarded up shops that were once home to Debenhams, BhS and M&S.
I’d certainly put money on someone taking it on long before anyone touches whatever is left of Mountain Lines after it has been boarded up for nigh on 35 years, or the old sports shop next to the Penny Farthing which hasn’t seen daylight since the mid 1980s.
These places - abandoned, forgotten eyesores - have become part of the town’s wallpaper. We’ve seen them so often they no longer even register, but the reality is every single town and city has them. Kirkcaldy’s issue is the big empty units all sit in a row, both on the High Street and inside a worryingly empty Mercat.
But, have you ventured along Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow recently? What a sad state of affairs an once bustling street has been reduced to. I couldn’t help but compare it to the centre of Newcastle on a recent visit where the main street was rammed with folk, and all the major players were still evident. Go to Manchester or Birmingham and you’ll find yourself thinking ‘what cost of living crisis?’ as you see huge swathes of shoppers armed with bags of goods.
True, you don’t have to stray too far from the main drag to see empty units and much less activity, but they still feel busy and vibrant. Glasgow’s once famous thoroughfare just feels abandoned and decrepit. As Springsteen once sang: “Main Street’s whitewashed windows and vacant stores. Seems like there ain’t nobody wants to come down here no more.”He was referring to his own home town of Asbury, New Jersey, but the lyric chimes with every place you care to name.
In my home city of Edinburgh, Princes Street is a shadow of what it used to be, and, as big names migrate to the St James Quarter, they leave behind more ‘to let’ signs and empty shop fronts.
I can recall Jenners in its prime, and being taken to RW Forysth for sports kit which was kept in wooden drawers, all of it uniform school issue of white or navy, while Binns stood formal guard at the west end, and Woolies at the east. It’s now the Apple store which is certainly smarter than the Burger King that went before. Brunstfield has thrived while Corstorphine has not, and Leith has persevered doggedly while waiting for years to finally welcome trams. Its time is about now.
Fife? Leven feels dog tired, Glenrothes clings to life outside the Kingdom Centre - inside is just miserable - Cupar retains some of its market feel, and St Andrews has its charm although the empty shops are starting to jump out at you.
Every town has its own unique challenges while facing the common issue of bleeding out to online sales, and soul-less retail parks which have long since abandoned the notion they were for white goods only. If we want our town centres to thrive, we have to support them.