South Scotland

Galashiels and Hawick: The retail 'challenges' facing two Borders towns

Galashiels Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Consultants were asked to look at the issues facing retailers in Galashiels

They are the two biggest towns in the Scottish Borders although the order you place them in probably depends which one you come from.

But both Galashiels and Hawick (in strict alphabetical order) have some issues in common.

A recent report by consultants looked at the "challenges" facing the retail sector in the towns.

Its findings have now been presented to Scottish Borders Council and a number of community groups.

The local authority said its recommendations would be "carefully considered" before any action was taken.

'Wider economy'

Councillor Stuart Bell said: "This piece of work is an important step in tackling the challenges faced in both Galashiels and Hawick in terms of retailing, but we now need to go away and consider the recommendations and come back with an informed plan on where we go from here.

"It is important that community and business groups in both Galashiels and Hawick are engaged with the work that will result from this report, and as such it was vital to make them aware of the findings as early as possible.

"Change will not take place overnight, and we still have to take into account the wider economy across the Scottish Borders and nationally which has, and continues to, impact on retailing in our towns."

Image copyright Richard Dorrell
Image caption A retail "anchor" was among the suggestions for Hawick

He said that he remained "hopeful" that working with partners like Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish government they could help both towns which were "clearly vital" to the local economy.

The report presents a number of key findings about the retail sector in the area.

It found that Borders towns were shifting from a traditional shopping offering (such as shoes and clothing) towards convenience and leisure.

It also concluded that retail premises were becoming more locally owned as major financial institutions moved out and that leases tended to be for shorter periods leading to quicker turnover of High Street tenants.

The study also said that towns in the Scottish Borders were "not particularly well understood by UK level decision-makers in the retail sector".

'Clear message'

It suggested that a "prospectus" for Galashiels and Hawick should be drawn up identifying what the towns have to offer.

That would allow them to target operators with a "clear message around local trading conditions" and information about the retailers already present.

Consultants said that growth was coming from local retailers and added that current vacancies could provide an opportunity for them to "improve their trading location".

It said public sector investment could focus regeneration efforts in Galashiels on Stirling Street and the west end of Channel Street.

In Hawick it suggested a footfall generating "anchor" such as a major commercial outlet in the town centre might provide a boost.

All of which provides food for thought for both the council and community groups in the two towns.

It will then be up to them to decide if and how they take forward the recommendations made by the consultants.

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