Our thoughts on 'Saving the High Street'

My name is Gordon, the owner of the recently closed Ellie’s Cellar on the High Street in Linlithgow. I have been reading some of the message boards and groups regarding the number of closures on the High Street and because of the level of interest, I thought I would offer my thoughts as ‘an insider’.

From a personal note, I would like to say thank you for the many comments made on-line and to the staff in the shop regretting the closure of the shop and that it would be missed.

A cursory glance at the comments will make it obvious that there are many factor’s which can influence the success (or not) of a High Street but in my opinion, many of them, while important, are secondary to the question “are there enough people who make the effort to use it?”

This is based on operating 7 (now 6) small businesses in 7 different towns for the last 19 years.

Society and communities are ever changing and many of us are now increasingly time short. Big business has evolved quicker and more efficiently than small firms have, to make it ‘easier’ to use them; ample free parking, slick on-line operations and huge advertising, social media and marketing budgets spring to mind.

All these efficiencies offered by the big boys mean that using your high street demands more of an effort; small businesses don’t deserve your business on sentimental grounds so most small businesses will try to make the effort worth your while, by offering better customer service, products that you can’t get from the big boys, someone who knows what you like and so on.

Every business should be on a permanent quest for improvement but for most customers this wont be enough but small shops don’t need every member of a town to do the majority of their shopping in the High Street; they only need a small percentage of customers to spend a fraction of their income but this in turn requires an active choice to divert some of your spend to the High Street because it is easier to spend it with Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Aldi, Amazon, etc.

Some suggestions to develop further (if you want a High Street with more than national brands)

Better uses for the Bid levy?

1) Small businesses struggle to effectively communicate what they have to offer; use the largest portion of the Bid money to create a professional communication strategy (digital and traditional). Small businesses generally can’t afford ‘professional’ services by themselves.
2) one of the suggestions on the message board was for a shuttle bus. Could some of the Bid money be used to subsidise this as a trial? It is a model that appears to work well in winter Alpine resorts where parking is also difficult. Make it easier for people to use the High Street.
3) commuters contribute to the traffic congestion in Linlithgow. I’m not sure how many of them spend any money in the High Street. Could they be incentivised to spend some of their expenditure here? Many of them are already walking down the High Street. Money off parking or train fares with so many purchases made?

Whatever ideas are tried, I would suggest that any one idea on it’s own is unlikely to be enough and there should be a coordinated strategy over a period of time; however don’t divide the resources too thinly so that no one initiative has any effectiveness. Good luck.

So we can continue to grow the rest of our business ANY comments, suggestions are welcome. ALL feedback is good feedback to us!