High street rally

Shoppers browse the best of Clarkston at the recent BID Christmas Extravaganza
Shoppers browse the best of Clarkston at the recent BID Christmas Extravaganza

COMMUNITY groups have taken to social media to encourage southsiders to shop local this Christmas.

Research from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) shows that footfall through the nation’s shops last week dropped by 1.7 per cent from 2011 figures.

The same data shows a 4.9 per cent slump in the number of people visiting shopping centres, while high street figures fell by 0.8 per cent, and out-of-town locations by 0.4 per cent.

Despite what BRC director general Stephen Roberston calls “disappointing” figures - attributed to cold weather and online shopping during - southside groups have adopted new tactics in a bid to boost local businesses.

Community websites such as Southside Happenings, My Shawlands Facebook page and Clarkston.com social media sites have adopted a recommendation scheme, encouraging neighbours to share their locally-sourced gift ideas.

A representative of Clarkston.com told The Extra: “We’re often used by local people to ask for recommendations for anything from driving instructors to dance classes. It’s always good to know that someone else has tried and liked the service you’re planning to use.
“This is a really difficult time for retailers, and we think it’s in everyone’s interests to have a thriving town centre in Clarkston. So we thought we’d do a Countdown to Christmas – where something in a local shop can be recommended and promoted each day.

“It’s just our way of trying to support our local high street”.

It’s a message at the forefront of the I Love Clarkston campaign, run by the area’s Business Improvement District (BID).

Clarkston BID recently held a Christmas event to promote the area’s shops, and chair Debra Clapham explained: “We recreated a mini Clarkston high street, and found that lots of stalls sold out – so there is a demand for the products we have on offer.

“A common argument is that parking is easier at out-of-town shopping centres, but our event took place in the area’s biggest car park and still, 15,000 people walked or came by public transport to Clarkston – so the argument no longer seems relevant”.

Debra - who now plans to reach out to businesses in neighbouring areas such as Giffnock and Newton Mearns - added: “The community are beginning to get on board and there is a will to keep Clarkston’s high street flourishing – it’s just a case of encouraging people back in and showing them that it’s still a vibrant area to live, work and shop in”.

It’s a vibrancy which Michelle McCabe, of The Avenue, says extends to Newton Mearns.

The centre manager commented: “We take pride in the fact that, at a time when the economic challenges facing the retail sector are well-documented, we are fully let – a reflection, we believe, of the buoyancy of East Renfrewshire’s local economy”.