Bold plans in offing to revitalise High Street

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Plans are under way to rejuvenate the High Street by introducing incentives to new businesses and shoppers.

Issuing loyalty cards to shoppers and applying so-called shop jackets are among suggested solutions to attracting custom to existing retailers and filling gaps created by empty shops.

Those who run local businesses, however, have said that such ideas represent a short-term fix and that the High Street is destined to be deprived of shops within a decade.

Derick Tait, chairman of Future Hawick, has held discussions with Shop Jacket and is set to seek council planning permission to display a set of bespoke printed panels across three High Street units, in a bid to make empty buildings appear to be thriving shops, at a cost of around £6,000.

“We’ve identified three vacant properties in the High Street that we can do something with,” explained Mr Tait. “They’re central to the High Street and we want to create an impression that there is potential there.”

Mr Tait said the the ‘jackets’ would be designed to attract the type of business which did not already exist on the High Street and that, if the plan was successful, similar investment across more vacant premises may follow.

Lanarkshire businessman Cameron Douglas, 44, who grew up in the town, says that the High Street represents the soul of the local community and must remain the focal point of its commercial district. He has tabled a proposal for a website with related loyalty card and smartphone application. The plan includes appealing to shoppers to visit all participating retailers on a Hawick ‘Monopoly board’ in exchange for rewards such as entry into a monthly lottery and parking provision.

He said: “The priority for me is to get Hawick people back into the habit of spending money in the town and building from there. We should be aiming at a niche market and recreating an old-fashioned high street, whether it’s homeware, jewellery, arts and crafts to complement your chain stores and supermarkets.”

However, Alison McBeath, manager at Great Outdoors, said it is inevitable that the heart of the town will cease to remain its retail hub. “Businesses are dying and it’s going to be difficult to revive any high street,” she said. “In 10-15 years the High Street here will all be residential.”

James Pringle, whose family has run a butcher business for four generations, says rates and parking must be addressed as a priority. He said: “What brings people here is good-quality shops. It sounds a bit desperate to introduce a loyalty card – really it is just a gimmick. Shop jackets are just another temporary measure.”