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‘Significant challenges’ for Glasgow as footfall drops by 400,000



‘Significant challenges’ for Glasgow as footfall drops by 400,000

PA Media Shoppers in Glasgow's Buchanan StreetPA Media

Glasgow city centre needs “fresh life” a business body has warned, as a new report showed a decline of more than 400,000 visitors compared with last year.

Glasgow Chamber of Commerce said revitalising the city should be a “top economic priority.”

There were 410,000 fewer visitors in May compared with the same month last year, while in April there was a sales decrease of 12.3%, the equivalent of £60m.

A spokesman for the city council said Glasgow faced “significant challenges” but the council was working to create a “more attractive environment” for businesses and shoppers.

City centres across the country have been affected by a number of factors, including the cost of living crisis and the continued popularity of online shopping.

However, feedback from businesses in the new report cited additional problems with “cleansing, maintenance & hygiene” throughout Glasgow.

Shoppers on Argyle Street

Several big stores such as Debenhams have closed in recent years

The city has been blighted by a number of shop and restaurant closures in recent years, including the HMV megastore on Buchanan Street, Marks & Spencer on Sauchiehall Street and Debenhams on Argyle Street.

The two fires that devastated Glasgow School of Art and destroyed the O2 ABC venue have also affected surrounding businesses, leaving a number of empty properties around the city centre.

Richard Muir, deputy chief executive at Glasgow Chamber of Commerce said: “The recovery of Glasgow City Centre should remain a top economic priority for all levels of our governments.

“The Golden Z report launched last August explained much of what needs to be done to breathe fresh life into the most impacted streets. It is now time that we enact this report.”

Mr Muir called for a “new city deal” involving tax incentives and funding to help the retail sector.

In August 2023 councillors voted for the so-called “Golden Z” plan to increase the population living on Buchanan Street, Argyle Street and Sauchiehall Street through 1,350 new or converted flats.

Failure to recover

Figures from the Scottish Retail Consortium in recent months have broadly matched the Chamber of Commerce’s assessment.

Ewan MacDonald-Russell, the organisation’s deputy head, said Glasgow’s status as a premier shopping destination “risks becoming a memory.”

He added: “These figures, which correlate with the SRC’s own footfall data, demonstrate Glasgow’s grasp on the title of Scotland’s shopping capital is weakening.

“Footfall has failed to recover since the pandemic as shoppers cut back their discretionary spending and shift shopping trips to out-of-town or online retailers.”

Mr MacDonald-Russell said there should be a reduction in non-domestic rates and better public transport to help businesses attract more visitors.

Empty Marks & Spencer building on Buchanan Street

The Marks & Spencer building is empty on Buchanan Street

A Glasgow City Council spokesman said the city was still “the most significant economic area in Scotland”.

He added: “We are working very closely with our public and private sectors partners in the City Centre Task Force to ensure the city centre stays resilient and adapts to the changes it faces.

“There is a huge amount of public and private sector development and investment currently taking place in Glasgow, and this will deliver a more attractive environment for visitors, businesses, workers and a growing residential population.”

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