Kirkcaldy High Street ‘plunges’ downmarket in 1992

The future of Kirkcaldy’s High Street is the subject of much debate, but such conversations are nothing new.

Friday, 16th August 2019, 4:01 pm
Kirkcaldy High Street in 1992
Kirkcaldy High Street in 1992

Almost 30 years ago in May 1992, four years after the street was pedestrianised, the FFP ran a feature with the headline ‘Quality Fear As High St Heads Down Market’.

The report read: “Kirkcaldy High Street is plunging down market and local commerce chiefs say it will be hard to stop the rot.

“Fife’s former premier shopping centre is struggling to attract quality traders back to the town, despite pedestrianisation and a major initiative from the Chamber of Commerce.

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The empty Co-op building on the High Street

“The High Street is now littered with discount shops, charity outlets and indoor markets.

“And some 20 unoccupied premises are protected by drab security grills.

“Despite a slight upturn in recent months, several major sites still display ’to let’ signs – including the former Co-op premises and Scottish Power’s old base in the east end.”

Speaking to the FFP at the time was town centre manager Ian Dumper who said: “There is an imbalance, and when you go down market, it is very difficult to upgrade again.”

“The High Street has taken a bit of battering in recent years. Historically it has enjoyed a high level of trading.

“We should be able to provide a variety of shops, but we need quality.

“Cut price stores have their place in any town centre, but there is an imbalance which will take time to resolve.”

Mr Dumper told the Press he still had hopes for the town centre and the arrival of one “big name” could help to turn the corner.

“A major retailer would create an impetus which others might follow,” he said.

“We have done a lot of cosmetic work in the central part of High Street, because it is important to have a presentable shopping centre. Fly-posting has disappeared and the pedestrianised area is looking good.

“The number of vacant shops is slightly down, but they now include major sites like the Co-op. Irrespective of how you look at it, there have been changes and improvements but more needs to be done.

“We need to create a balance between the pedestrianised central area and the shops at the ends of the street.”

The feature also reported that a major initiative by the Fife Chamber of Commerce which had hoped to revitalise the High Street had failed.

In 2001 the business organisation launched a major initiative to fill the vacant sites in the town centre.

It hosted a high powered seminar, and circulated a giant mailshot to companies throughout Scotland the north of England.

But the response had been negligible.

James Brodie, chief executive, told the Press he was disappointed.

“The feedback was non-existent. All indications are that retailers are not rushing into Kirkcaldy,” he said.

“The High Street desperately needs quality traders. Pedestrianisation created the perfect environment for shoppers, and it gives a good image of the town but we’re just not getting the quality.

“It may be better to have something in a shop window rather than nothing, but the move down market is worrying.”

The Chamber’s initiative was aimed at companies with a national profile, and Mr Brodie believes they were put off by two factors – high rents and long leases.

“The local economy is struggling, and companies need incentives to come here,” he continued.

He added that the town was “crying out for the arrival of a major department store or up-market trader”.