A recent report published by The Local Data Company (LDC) and the University of Stirling has shown a decrease in the number of empty shops in Dumfries and has been welcomed by Dumfries & Galloway MP Russell Brown, Dumfriesshire MSP Elaine Murray and Labour Councillor and Chair of Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Economy, Environment and Infrastructure Committee Colin Smyth.
The report found the average retail vacancy rate in Scotland dropped from 14.5% to 13.7%.
The retail vacancy rate in Dumfries & Galloway is 7.8%, well below the 13.7% Scottish average.
The report showed that Dumfries was among the top seven most improved towns in Scotland for decreasing shop vacancy rates.
However, the report showed that Gretna has the lowest proportion of independent shops in Scotland at 5%.
The study also found that 40% of Scotland's empty shops have remained vacant for more than three years.
Chair of Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Economy, Environment and Infrastructure Committee Councillor Colin Smyth said:
“It is encouraging to see that Dumfries was one of the most improved towns in Scotland in terms of reduced vacancies. The council has supported a number of new start businesses who have opened shops in the town centre through grants and business advice and it is really important this continues. However, the town centre is still a long way away from meeting the public expectation of what they want to see. We all still hark back to the day when people visited their town centre to do all their shopping but that is becoming a thing of the past due to internet shopping, faster transport links to cities and 24 hour supermarkets. The difficulties traditional market towns have competing with all this has become a real problem across Scotland and Dumfries is probably doing better than a lot of other towns. But we need to look at other ways to bring people into our town centres as it is clear retail isn’t enough.”
Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown highlighted the problem of long term vacancies and said:
“One of the problems the report highlights is the number of properties that remain vacant for a long time. That’s partly as a result of them falling into a poor state of disrepair and we can see that with a number of almost derelict sites in towns across Dumfries and Galloway. Often the buildings are owned by companies from out with the region who do very little to make them attractive for people to move into. The Scottish Government talk a lot about putting town centres first, but unless they match this with funding to improve the condition of some of the buildings there are some properties that will simply never come back into use.”
Dumfriesshire MSP Elaine Murray highlighted the fact the figure showing that Gretna had the lowest proportion of independent shops in Scotland at just 5% was misleading. Elaine Murray said:
“Gretna is a relatively small village but it has a large designer outlet which serves far more than the village. By definition, these outlets have national chains in them and this totally skews the figures for local independent retailers. Overall the outlet has been beneficial for the local area bringing in visitors and creating jobs and it’s a positive news story that it is expanding.”