Editorial: Crisis in our High Streets is getting out of control

Sunday Supplement

A look back at events reported on the pages of insideMoray this week ……

If I gain nothing else from my spell as a ‘shopkeeper’ on a main street in a Moray town I will certainly have a much clearer view of the problems facing our town centres.

Shops have dominated insideMoray in one way or another this week – first through our taking insideMoray to the high street by operating from the pop-up shop in Keith.  Then by the opening of a ‘superstore’ in Elgin that is hailed by officialdom as a success but viewed by ordinary people as symptomatic of all that is wrong in our region and country.

Sitting daily with a view out of the shop window, what struck me most is the lack of passing traffic – it is even easy to park on the main street (and by the way, also to ignore the parking restrictions because we can’t afford (or need?) traffic wardens any more).

What astounds me is just how those shops remaining survive at all. So where is everyone? Well the answer is very easy to find in Keith – take a very short walk from the former hub of the community in Mid Street and you will land at the Tesco Superstore, where passing traffic and subsequently business is thriving.

The problem facing our High Streets is, I guess, very simply two-fold – on the one hand people are in too much of a hurry to browse from shop to shop and simply prefer to drive up, grab everything in one place, and drive off.

On the other hand our town planners are perfectly happy to allow this to happen. Sure, they make noises about doing what they can for our town centres – but really, they don’t actually care enough to refuse the big boys when they come knocking.

And that brings me back to Elgin and the opening of BrightHouse in a prime position at the front of the St Giles Centre.

I can understand that Moray Council probably don’t have that much a say when it comes to an existing empty store being taken over, they pay their rates so not much to be said.

I recognise as well that the coming of this new store provides a few jobs in our community, never a bad thing.

But what I do not understand or think wise is the Elgin Bid statement to the Northern Scot this week that read: “We are delighted to see another business realising the potential of Elgin and locating within the city centre. We wish them every success in the future and look forward to working with them.”

Really? Had anyone at Bid actually looked into what this store chain does?

The potential BrightHouse recognise in Elgin is the pre-Christmas pressure on hard-up families to get the presents their kids demand at any cost.

In the case of this particular chain store, that cost is made up of ‘easy weekly payments’ that lead to as much as four times the normal retail value of the goods sold being coughed up.

In making their statement was Elgin Bid aware of this? Do they not realise that in an Elgin where demand for the services of food-banks is increasing at an alarming rate the last thing we need is a store of this nature peddling temptation in the path of already hard pressed Moray families?

They could not have been more provocative had they welcomed the opening of a new Payday Lender to our community.

COMPARISONS

Playstation 4 with Drive Club & Assassin’s Creed Black Flag Bundle

Brighthouse – £10 weekly for 130 weeks, APR 94.7%, total payment £1,300
Argos – (without assassin’s Creed) £384.99 or pay over 36 months – APR 29.9%

XBox one Forza Horizon 2 Bundle

Brighthouse – £11.60 weekly for 130 weeks, APR 94.7%, total payment £1,508
Argos – as above with FIFA15 and Evil Within – £359.99

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