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City centre growth as important as ever

We think the city centre matters to the success of Glasgow and so with the guidance of the City Council’s City Centre Strategy Board, we are beavering away at a number of initiatives to help it grow.

Glasgow city centre has the best shops in the UK outside London. We know this because independent organisations like CACI and Experian tell us in their regular benchmarking reports.  We also know that the competition to retain that position is intense not just from other cities like Manchester or Leeds but also in understanding what the city centre has to do to complement the growth of the out of town centres like Braehead and Silverburn

The out of town centres are important to Glasgow, but the city centre is special.  It’s the city centre with its distinctive mix of shops, bars, restaurants, cinemas, clubs and theatres that helps us attract tourists, students and inward investment.

So we pay close attention to the work of the Chamber’s City Centre Retail Association, whose primary aim is to drive up shopper footfall and convert that into sales. Anne Ledgerwood, the general manager of the St. Enoch Centre, chairs the association and it met last week to report on some of the projects that are currently underway.  

The Association has already made its impact by encouraging over 200 shops to stay open until 7pm every night during the working week.  That’s given me an extra hour at the end of a working day to pick up those birthday presents I’d forgotten about till it’s almost too late. (Thanks by the way to some very helpful staff at Marks and Spencer in Sauchiehall Street for tackling an especially tricky birthday present last week).

Now the Association is shaping a fresh marketing plan with intensive support from Glasgow City Marketing Bureau to get out to the public all the good news and deals from city centre shops.  There’s also work being done to assess the impact of major events like those at the Hydro or at the major sporting venues so we can understand which make the most impact on shopping spend.

The City Council’s Future City Glasgow team is doing some detailed work on measuring footfall patterns which make that a bit clearer.  It will also help understand what the impact is of any major transport disruptions and should help us work out how transport can be designed over the longer term to make it easier to get into the centre. 

We know that the access to and cost of car parking is one of the issues that constantly comes up from shopper surveys, and the data the Future Cities Glasgow team provides may well begin to make clearer how different solutions could overcome that barrier.

Later in the year, together with Glasgow City Council, we are pulling together a strategy for retail growth in the city centre.  We know that there are some parts of the city that have taken a hit from the 2008 recession, where shops have become vacant because of the collapse of so many high street names. We also know that the internet is changing shopping habits. We want to make clear in the new strategy how city centre shopping will respond to that, whether that’s through attracting new brands, helping independent Glasgow retailers to grow, improving transport provision or by investing in the quality of the public realm - making the centre a genuinely pleasant place to be in all weathers.

It helps to have the City Deal commitment in place with over £100m available to deliver on an improved city centre and the first practical signs of that investment are in the Sauchiehall Street/Garnethill areas where widespread consultation on that district’s future is underway.

The city centre is our biggest concentration of jobs, wealth generation, spending, learning and fun.  We want to keep it that way.

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