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Lerwick town centre


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Guest Mr.Brown

Sadly things like basic lamp oil do seem to be ever harder to find, it seems it is one of those things that is, in my opinion wrongly considered out dated. You would probably have a better chance of sourcing such things at a country shop, I know ours normally has candles at least. I mind a few years back trying to find a replacement glass for an oil lamp. I tried everywhere from the street to the industrial estate without success. I eventually got one secondhand from the auction but of course that's gone now.

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^It is not simply about food shopping although there are definately areas of that market that could still be served by smaller shops too ie for the customer that doesn't have the time or patience to deal with the hustle & bustle of a supermarket or just finds it over whelming (maybe because of health conditions, I can empathise with that). Supermarkets existed along side smaller retailers for a long time now even here & I'm not sure what you mean by everything being priced at the factory, I don't remember a time when prices didn't vary around the shops? Of course smaller shops can't normally compete on price with a supermarket & I know very well how important the cost issue is from my own financial circumstances but as I pointed out in a previous post there are other ways that they do or can excel. It's not the "good old days" I want, it's good new ones with choice & variety.

In my young days many items were priced before they left the factory,biscuits,bars of chocolate,ect ,ect all had the RRP(recommended retail price ) marked on them and it did not matter where you bought it in the UK  it was the same price .Many will remember Shaws price list !


The RRP was abandoned and those in a position were able to negotiate  individual prices and deals  with the manufacturers and from there the big supermarkets have flourished destroying the small businesses who could no longer compete with the prices or the convenience offered by those establishments regarding their big shops with easy parking and a large choice of goods .


As far as we the customers are concerned this has been good over the years, I must by now have saved hundred of pounds by being able to buy cheaper goods but a disaster to the small shops.


A bakery was tried at Sound (next to Blydoit fish ) but found it difficult to compete with prices due to the high operational costs,staff, distribution ,electricity, flour ect .Guess they were unable to buy the large quantity required to allow them to be able to lower the price and be competitive so had to give up.


With the cost of staff,and all the regulations that every employer has to abide with these days I doubt if there will be many new shops opening on the street anytime soon but I do hope I am wrong.

Edited by Urabug
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2 many shops start granting permission to turn shops into accommodation plenty of people looking for housing the internet and supermarkets have cut the need for high streets all over the uk no point in holding onto yesterday

I do wonder what vision you have for the towns future? Blaming the down turn of the street on the existence of supermarkets & internet shopping &/or lack of necessity is just not the whole story. There are plenty of people that still like to browse & purchase in actual shops. It may not be your cup of tea but we are not all the same & so there are many different needs & wants in this world. My personal idea of hell is supermarket shopping, I do still use them but fairly seldom, not what you would call on a regular basis. I haven't found online shopping with the supermarket a much better experience either unfortunately. But while they are not always the right options for me obviously they suit a lot of circumstances. We have had at least one supermarket for a very long time & up to the not so distant past, numerous club book companies were highly used in Shetland for all products other than groceries & yet the shops kept going & even thrived. I would suggest that levels of rents & council taxes plus in latter years the added financial demands from the town centre association/Living Lerwick or whatever it is called now (?) make it difficult for shops, particularly ones selling lower priced items to make a go of it. Also the lack of parking nearby (& charging for some of it) can't help matters. Certainly some shops could help themselves by improving their presentation & their customer service but there is also room for improvement with some customers manners too. The benefits I see in having actual shops available are that you can have an instant purchase when needed. We are not always in the position of being able to or wanting to wait (even for just a day or two) for certain goods. You can be sure of an items colour/size when you are seeing it in actuality. Footwear/clothing can be tried on for fit rather than estimated, unfortunately for these items sizes are not always as standard as you would hope & different styles can also affect the size required. Supermarkets cannot offer the individual service that some customers want & possibly need, that a good independent shop can. Also the more shops there are then potentially the more choice of products. This is particularly relevant for clothing & footwear. We don't all want to look exactly the same, especially on a night out (a distant memory)! Supermarkets tend to be built on the outskirts of towns & cities due to the space required & so are not always accessible to non drivers or if you simply don't have a vehicle on the road. I realise this is not such a problem here because of the size & layout of Lerwick though if you need to go to the centre of town for something the supermarkets don't offer, you don't always have the time & ability to get out to them as well the same day. An extra trip if you are coming in from the country means extra expense, even bus fairs can be prohibitive if you are living on limited means. A main street in any town or city can add to the character of the place, especially if extra difficulties are not put in the way of individual retailers being part of it. Tourism also adds to our economy & though a lot of tourists have chosen Shetland for very particular reasons like bird watching, knitwear or music events etc., I'm sure they would hope to find shops that they can buy something that reflects their visit or that they can replace a damaged item at short notice. I know that I have spoken to several cruise ship tourists who have been a bit disappointed with our street in the last couple of years. Variety is the spice of life. Do you really want the toon to become like just one big housing estate with only council offices, some places of employment & just a couple of supermarkets to choose from, all on the outskirts of it?


no i don't but if nobody wants to rent the empty shops then start from the edges and allow people to convert into housing then at least it will give more chance to the ones left in the centre

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Guest Mr.Brown

If nobody wants to rent the empty shops then would it not be preferable to at least make a serious attempt to address why that is first before just giving up on it. There may not be the powers to make the property owners lower rents but maybe council taxes could be & I would question the need for Living Lerwick & their right to expect a business to be part of it. Charging for parking on the pier could be stopped, we managed for many years without it. There maybe other things that could be done, I don't claim to be an expert on the subject, I just think that when there is the will to do something then a way to do it can usually be found. Once these empty shops are converted to houses that will be it, how many houses in the say last 40 or 50 years have you seen being converted to shops?

Also why would having more people living right on the street necessarily help the remaining shops to survive? If these extra residents didn't use Beggs or Smith & Robertson's or Bayes before in preference to ordering online do you think that habit is going to change? I would concede that it may make a slight improvement to Don Leslies or Conochies footfall as they are convenience stores & by their very nature would attract people who need to just nip out to as near as possible to get the paper or a pint of milk etc. I will certainly continue to use the street, yes I do get frustrated if I can't get what I am looking for there & I do use the supermarkets & the internet on occasion too. I am not against any of these forms of shopping, they all have a place & serve different needs. If we cut out any of them we limit our choices & make ourselves more heavily dependant on the remaining choice/s. This seems particularly unwise for us as an island community as we can't easily & cheaply travel to another town to shop. Promoting diversity in anything including shopping seems to me to be forward thinking rather than out dated.

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Town residents may see it differently, but from a personal perspective coming in from Yokel-land to the big smoke, I'm going to be coming on wheels, and it needs parking someplace. The more difficult it has become to park near the street, the less inclined I've been to go there.


Reducing parking spaces on the Esplanade by I'd say as much as 50% in the last 40 years as a result of a bit by bit introduction of silly bits of kerb, pointless little walls, crossings and similar hellery, bus shelters, marked parking bays etc, reversing the traffic flow under the Fort and putting the bollards at the Clydesdale etc, along with other bits and pieces have all contributed a little over time to making it a place I'd only consider as a last resort.


It has very little to do with being lazy, and almost everything to do with there being nothing for sale on the street I'm in the market to buy that can't be gotten far more easily, quickly and accessibly someplace else in the town. Why would I, or anyone else go to the bother of spending the extra time, extra hassle and extra expense of getting to and from the street be it cars wending over the Esplanade at a snail's pace, paying to use the pier, or having to circuit the sundry free carparks twice before finding a space, when you can simply pull up outside the Toll Clock, or someplace else like several at Gremista or Sound, slip in, buy, and slip out again and be on your way.

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Reasons I have heard or seen written have been -


No parking available on the street

Available parking is too far away

High prices

Poor choice

Surly or disinterested staff

Easier to shop online


State of the street

Excessive traffic on the restricted section

Police not enforcing the restricted section


I have never experienced poor service, other than being forced to have a bag, which I didn't need or want, by an overzealous member of Harry's.


One of the shopkeepers told me that the erection of bollards in Harrison Square saw a massive decline in their shop.

Edited by BigMouth
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Guest Mr.Brown

Totally get your points & certainly don't mean to imply that all car users are lazy. Believe me as a non driver I am very grateful when I do get a lift right to my destination as opposed to using the bus, particularly in the bad weather. However if a person parks badly for instance half on a pavement causing pedestrians, maybe pushing bairns in buggies or wheelchair/mobility scooter users to have to go on the road or parks in a disability space then that's clearly not right. There would be a better chance of being able to find what we want to buy on the street if the shops were all occupied & to make this likely to happen the problems that make having a shop there need to be recognised (honestly) & addressed. The lack of parking I am sure is very relevant. Years ago before the Toll clock there were more shops on Commercial Road too as well as more convenience shops around the town so there was always a second shopping area & people still used the street as well. I don't think the problems the town centre has are irreversible yet but it is time to get serious about sorting them out & I suppose in large part that is in the councils power or at least the town's council. If nothing is done we will all lose another possible option/choice.

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As most of you probably know, I am the owner of a shop on da street. I have a medium sized shop and it has a lot of overheads such as rent, electricity, water rates, insurance and yearly Living Lerwick fee. But every shop has rent and bills, so don't think it's the cost thats putting folk off. It has always been a well knowing fact that having a shop anywhere is expensive. Offcoarse shops would be spared the Living Lerwick yearly fee if not on da street.


Would there be more footfall in other areas of Lerwick such as Bolts?


If it's the internet to blame then all shops would struggle and eventually close regardless of location, except for shops selling food or things you need and can't buy off the internet. The internet has certainly had a big impact on how people shop and EVERY town/city has seen a big change in the high street NOT just Lerwick.


What has changed up here over the last 20 years is that da street used to be a meeting place, especially on Saturday afternoons. Whats to blame? mobile phones? internet social media like facebook? or is folk to busy sitting playing xbox or computer games? or does folk no like meeting up in fresh air now a days? or maybe they feel like big brother is watching them with all those cameras along da street? I honestly don't know the answer.


Da street could do with a "face lift" but don't think thats the problem with lack of footfall.


The parking is certainly a big issue as you will be hard pushed to find a free space during the day, plus those speed bumps has put a lot of folk off, most folk only go by the esplanade because they have to now.


I think the main problem is the empty shops (about 10) and pure lack of variety. Thats why it's important to get some of these empty shops filled with some fresh ideas. Folk do still NEED to come to da street to go to the bank, post office, optician, lawyers, hair dresser, etc, even though some of these type of services are else where in Lerwick too.

Edited by Lerwick antiques
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I can only give answers to why I don't go to the street too often. These are:

-Parking and driving around Da Street can be a nightmare.

-All there seems to be are eateries and empty shops with a few shops in between.

-Prices and choice e.g. Christmas went to get a weather station, for my meteorological mad wife, only found one shop with them in   stock. However their price was £90 for a basic setup, got exactly the same make from sooth, but top of the range, for £70 delivered! 


On another note I know of two shops who shut their doors and I quote "Because of paying fees to a useless town centre committee was hurting them."  I would question the legitimacy of living Lerwick to levy fees if you do not want to be a member.


 Just an idea why doesn't some community body put out a couple of online surveys. one for shoppers and a separate one for retailers/ex-retailers off the street. Find out confidentially why the street is failing. STOP guessing at the reasons and then you may have a chance to fix the problem.

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