Stark 'use it or lose it' warning for Scotland's high streets

The festive sale season beginning this week could be the last chance to save struggling businesses and favourite brands as shops across Scotland close their doors, experts have warned.

Members of the public carry shopping in Buchanan Street in Glasgow.
Members of the public carry shopping in Buchanan Street in Glasgow.

Retail experts have warned that consumers need to buy local in the new year sales in a bid to bolster the Scottish economy and save businesses which may otherwise collapse in the new year.

All of mainland Scotland, is set to move into Level Four restrictions today, resulting in the closure of all ‘non-essential’ shops.

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This week is also a final chance to boost well-known high street brands, which might be set to fall into the hands of administrators in the coming months due to closures as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Arcadia, which includes Topshop and Burtons - as well as department stores chain Debenhams, have all collapsed in the past two months.

Experts issued the stark warning that consumers need to “use” their favourite businesses or risk losing them for good. However, they acknowledged that many people will be unable to afford to splash out in the sales this year, as thousands of people face starting the new year without a job.

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, which has warned that the lockdown will cost Scottish retailers £135m a week, said: “Many of our favourite shops and retailers have invested significantly in their online offering and logistics and distribution capabilities over recent years, more so this year given the series of on/off lockdowns we’ve encountered from government as a result of their response to coronavirus.

"We would encourage shoppers to consider making a point of getting out and supporting their favourite stores as and when so-called non-essential retailers are permitted to re-open in a few weeks’ time. That would help sustain these businesses and the local jobs they provide, as well as the vitality of our retail destinations.”

He added: “It’s very much a case of ‘use them or lose them’. If people don’t support their local stores or the shops that they like, then there’s no guarantee for their future. This is one of the most competitive sectors out there, but unless they can attract the custom, they’ll struggle.”

Almost a quarter of a million Scots are directly employed in retail, with more working in the supply chain.

Leigh Sparks, professor of retail studies at Stirling University, added: “The new lockdown measures will make life difficult for many retailers deemed non-essential. These retailers will have real issues with cash flow and staying in business over this period. Many of them earlier in the pandemic moved online to maintain supply to customers and to protect their business. This gives them a chance to try to get through the current lockdown with at least some business.

“It is vital that retailers who can sell online, do so, and that they make this known to as many potential customers as they can. Use of social media, combining with other local stores and being proactive will be important. For consumers, if you value these local stores, then look them out and see what you can do to help keep them in business. Scotland loves its local stores and now is the time when we all need to show this.”

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