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‘Significant challenges’ for Glasgow as visitors fall by 400,000

‘Significant challenges’ for Glasgow as visitors fall by 400,000

Glasgow city centre needs “new life”, a business body has warned, as a new report showed a drop of more than 400,000 visitors compared to last year.

Glasgow Chamber of Commerce said revitalising the city should be a “top economic priority”.

There were 410,000 fewer visitors in May compared to the same month last year, while April saw a 12.3% drop in sales, equivalent to £60 million.

A city council spokesman said Glasgow faced “significant challenges” but the council was working to create a “more attractive environment” for businesses and shoppers.

Urban centers across the country have been hit by a number of factors, including the cost of living crisis and the continued popularity of online shopping.

However, feedback from businesses in the new report cited additional issues with “cleanliness, maintenance and hygiene” in Glasgow.

Image subtitle, Several large stores such as Debenhams have closed in recent years

The twin fires that devastated the Glasgow School of Art and destroyed the O2 ABC site also affected nearby businesses, leaving several properties empty in the city centre.

Richard Muir, deputy chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, said: “The recovery of Glasgow city centre must remain a top economic priority for all levels of our governments.

“The Golden Z report released last August laid out much of what needs to be done to breathe new life into the most impacted streets. Now is the time to enact this report.”

Mr Muir called for a “new municipal deal” involving tax breaks and funding to help the retail sector.

In August 2023, councillors voted on the so-called “Golden Z” plan to increase the population living on Buchanan, Argyle and Sauchiehall streets through 1,350 new or refurbished flats.

Recovery failed

The Scottish Retail Consortium’s figures over the last few months broadly match the Chamber of Commerce’s assessment.

Ewan MacDonald-Russell, deputy director of the organisation, said Glasgow’s status as a major shopping destination “is in danger of becoming a memory”.

He added: “These figures, which correlate with the SRC’s own traffic data, demonstrate that Glasgow’s hold on the title of Scotland’s shopping capital is weakening.

“Traffic has not recovered since the pandemic as consumers have reduced discretionary spending and shifted purchases to out-of-town retailers or online.”

Mr MacDonald-Russell said there should be a reduction in non-domestic fares and better public transport to help businesses attract more visitors.

Image subtitle, The Marks & Spencer building stands empty on Buchanan Street

A Glasgow City Council spokesman said the city was still “the most significant economic area in Scotland”.

He added: “We are working very closely with our public and private sector partners in the City Centre Taskforce to ensure the city centre remains resilient and adapts to the changes it faces.

“There is a huge amount of development and investment from both the public and private sectors currently taking place in Glasgow, and this will provide a more attractive environment for visitors, businesses, workers and a growing residential population.”