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Wings Over Scotland

Shoppers’ paradise

Posted on June 02, 2013 by

Wings Over Scotland undertook a research trip to London yesterday – mainly to check out the Propaganda: Power And Persuasion exhibition at the British Library, which we definitely recommend should you find yourself in the vicinity. Later in the day, though, we took a stroll down Oxford Street, and found ourselves horrified by the state of it.


The UK capital’s great retail showpiece looked like the aftermath of a Luftwaffe bombing raid on a run-down part of Burnley. Much of the south side of the street had been ripped to pieces by ongoing and seemingly endless work for the Crossrail project (sound familiar, Edinburgh residents?), but even where buildings were untouched by the builders there were boarded-up shops, tatty frontages and once-proud units now occupied by scores of scruffy tourist tat shifters.

And if even the great West End has now fallen into that sort of dilapidated, thoroughly depressing condition, despite three decades of all the country’s wealth being greedily sucked down to London, then what of the rest of the country?

We’ve documented some of the effects ourselves already. But increasingly, British town centres are adopting a more desperate approach to the crumbling economy.



PAISLEY (video)






























We suppose it’s nice that at least one business is booming in austerity Britain. But how long before we just paint a giant tarpaulin and drape it over the entire country?

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40 to “Shoppers’ paradise”

  1. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    That’s the one pictured/linked as “Enniskillen”. (In the case of fairly obscure villages and the like, I chose the nearest place people would have heard of, or the area in the name of the local paper where the story was printed.)

  2. daneel says:

    Yeah, I realized after I posted that it was the same shop.
    Will the last business to leave Britain please turn out the lights?

  3. Iain says:

    Potemkin Britain, constructed to preserve the delicate sensibilities of our privileged classes.
    Still, fear not, Mary Portas is on the job.

  4. AnneDon says:

    I wish they would just rent them out for a peppercorn rent to locals. Our Yes group is looking for a shop – £125 per week in Gorgie Road!
    Even without ‘political’ groups, they could be let out to small producers, crafters, etc. Just give the place a different look. And they’d be more likely to succeed if the rent was lower!
    West Kilbride did something interesting with this, and seemed to have good results.

  5. Dave McEwan Hill says:

    Paisley town centre got there some time ago.
    Has everybody bought today’s Sunday Herald. We have to give huge support to this newspaper 

  6. JLT says:

    I’m sure I read something the other day there that said something on the lines of 1 in 5 shops/retailers open at this moment will close/forced into administration in the next 5 years (or something on those lines). That’s bad if we are saying 20% of businesses will go! Where does that place the rest of them …their heads just above the water line???
    With more austerity measures being promised in the next few years, I have no doubt some businesses are just going to close their shops, and probably try everything with internet retailing from super warehouses (it will save them massive costs such as renting buildings all over the UK, staff wages, staff benefits, redundancy money, etc).
    I even wonder at times as to whether this is a Recession, or a mini-Depression. The reason I say that, is that Recessions don’t last 5 years (and from what I’ve read, may not end until at least 2020. If that is the case, then there is no way this is a Recession!)

  7. handclapping says:

    You cannot lower the rent. The building might be worth less if it cannot command the rent it once enjoyed and then the banks would have to revalue their property holdings and find out that they are bankrupt again. You bloody people in the Yes campaign trying to bankrupt Britain! 🙂
    Much better to leave it empty and  depress everybody about the state of Kirkcaldy, insert any alternative city, town, village of choice other than London, so that they will emigrate to London and London will benefit from all the expensive schooling, libraries, playing fields that the hicks in the sticks have provided and prove conclusively that London is the only part of Britain that is making a profit.

  8. Marcia says:

    I do hope that some elderly people don’t queue up for the fake shops to open.

  9. ianbrotherhood says:

    Here’s a song to go with the pictures…

  10. Jamie Arriere says:

    What next?
    Cardboard cutouts of people outside them with huge wads of notes in their hands? Cardboard cutout buskers with piped music (preferably patriotic songs)? Cardboard cutout men in suits with red or blue rosettes on their lapels, surrounded by happy smiling adoring faces?
    I wouldn’t put it past them!

  11. Mister Worf says:

    Well, the “new department store” one in Paisley is gone at least. But it’s a discount store now, so maybe not quite what had been hoped for to replace Littlewoods.
    There’s still a fair few empty shops done up in that style though – and many more empty shops not done up in anything but dust, rust, and peeling paint. Including a few in the Paisley Centre and the Piazza. Two years or so since that Hootsmon story and I wouldn’t be too surprised if things may actually have became a bit worse.

  12. Cheryl says:

    That Dumbarton one – there was a butcher on Dumbarton High St for years and years and years and it closed down apparently due to high rents and rates.  That particular High St really is an absolute hole now (and it pains me to say it because I love the place) with more than one of those fake shop fronts.

  13. molly says:

    Dave McEwan Hill,did you turn your Sunday Herald over ? Subliminal /coincidence ?
    RBYES,What would a YES mean to you ?
    We were lucky enough to spend a long week -end in Budapest recently. In Buda there is a fantastic building called ‘The Great Hall’. Apparantly in years gone by,they off loaded the ships directly into the hall,so that gives you an idea of the size. As you go through the bottom floor, each stall is stacked high with fresh fruit,vegetables,meat,chicken and of course paprika. The top floor has food stalls ,all reasonably priced. There are  also stalls with touristy stuff. My point is, when we were there (every day ) , it was heaving,standing room only at the foodstalls.
    The difference (and I’ve noticed this in other countries too ) is ,for many in the ‘Great Hall , it is not only about wandering Stepford wife like to get your messages,it is a chance to catch up and socialise. In the Tesco Express,we could have been back home.We were served politely and despatched promptly but as I said we could have been home. There was no reason to stay longer and browse.
    Perhaps ,we ‘ve got what we wanted, as there are times you just want to get the item and out again but perhaps some people want a different kind of shop or the health message is getting through and not everyone wants strawberrys transported 400 miles or perhaps the suggestion of a supermarket tax, would have given the smaller shops a more even chance.

  14. CameronB says:

    These fake shops are a component of “place marketing”, which has become a significant element of the urban regeneration effort and process. There are lots of prose and cons, too many to go in to btl. It is interesting to note though, that the  first city to every adopt it was New York, with its “I love NY” slogan. It is also interesting to note that David Harvey (one of the world’s most renowned geographer and anthropologists), describes New York as the world’s first Neoliberal City. The two are not unconnected (place marketing and neoliberalism).
    Although a bit long, at an hour and a half, this lecture by David Harvey, entitled “The Neoliberal City”, covers many of the social justice issues regularly discussed here on WoS. It also provides a pretty compelling critique of neoliberalism, particularly in terms of its relationship with the competing interests of capital and democracy.

  15. Krackerman says:

    Not sure you can blame the current economic climate for the destruction of the high street – for that look no further than the supermarkets and a mirror…..

  16. Adrian B says:

    Latest UKIP party political broadcast going for the disenfranchised working class labour vote. 

  17. Dave McEwan Hill says:

    Never noticed the Sunday Herald back page. Interesting indeed.

  18. Hetty says:

    why I don’t know, but, ‘palace?, and ‘mansion? Spring to mind…cafe? Gallery? Pound shop? In fact I thought the question mark was serious…steel my idea but what about a cafe with a ? After it…????? Questions questions where are the answers? The government, so called, meantime? Are they supposed to provide some answers? I mean what are we paying them to do?????

  19. Bill C says:

    I was talking to someone from Fort William on Friday, who was saying that the Fort’s High Street is a disaster area with shops closing down. His particular gripe was that the town once had four shoe shops, now it has none.  Union Street, Aberdeen is another depressing place to be, after independence it will be renamed and hopefully decent shopping  will return. The bottom line is, Britain is bankrupt and that fact is reflected on our High Streets. Roll on September 18th 2014 for everyone’s sake.

  20. Bill C says:

    @Dave, Molly, what did the back page say?

  21. Dave McEwan Hill says:

    Online buying is also an big factor. High Steeets will have to change. You can’t buy a coffee and a bacon buttie online  and interesting speciality and high quality shops and places where you can meet and interact with real human beings and so on will have to fill in the spaces left by small shops made non viable by supermarkets. 

  22. Hetty says:

    Looking at the first photo, is that the tall and short of it? All that remains is a flag? Change is a good thing for sure, roll on 2014.

  23. Dave McEwan Hill says:

    It is a huge advert for RBS which says “RBYES” and asks what would a YES mean to you

  24. southernscot says:

    @Dave McEwan Hill
    Nat west are running the similar advert in England called NatYes it’s been Trademarked. Did make me double take.

  25. Bill C says:

    @Dave McEwan Hill – Subliminal or am I in my conspiracy mode? Thanks Dave.

  26. Dave McEwan Hill says:

    Nat West of course is part of RBS. Do we think perhaps they don’t understand the interpretation that can be put on this in Scotland?

  27. scottish_skier says:

    Interesting that they’re fading out the saltire blue in the John Lewis flag.
    Tesco and Asda Galashiels seem to have given up on Britain. If it has a whiff of Scottish around it, gets a big saltire and ‘I’m Scottish‘ tag.

  28. Erchie says:

    Along with Potemkin City Centres, we have a Kafka Job Centre system, where the goal seems to be to use any means to stop the benefits of claimants or, where a person HAS got a job, put a black mark on their record should they be unemployed again.

    Here is someone being harrassed for getting a job

  29. sneddon says:

    Malls, on line shopping, changing tastes, time and parking are all issues related to the decline in the high street.  I live in Edinburgh and it is rare I go into Princes St for anything (with the honourable exception of the Guildford Arms).  No food shops , no decent bookstores, the remaining stores are either  expensive overated rubbish or cheap tat.  Maybe its my demograph (single, 46yr old biker who likes alternative music and is beyond handsome, some say 🙂 ) not the type of chap the high street is looking for.  But where there are good cafes, bars and bookshops and other niche shops they’ll survive for example Ipswich town centre is dying on its feet but down the road in Woodbridge the high street is a cracker.  Delis, cafes, bookshop, bakers, butchers,fishmongers and even a off licence.  But there is loads of cheap parking and the main shopping street is barred to traffic .

  30. The Rough Bounds says:

    We used to have a smashing wee RS McColl sweetie and paper shop on the High St. in Perth. When we drove past today I noticed that it was now a betting shop.
    At least when you went into the wee shop you got something for your money. Now they just want your money and give you bugger all.
    FFS. Is this really what it is all coming to?

  31. Jimbo says:

    The damage to our town centres is caused by the rise of the out of town supermarkets and retail parks.
    Mary Portas has warned councils that if they continue to allow these superstores to be built on the outskirts of towns then our town centres, which were once the heart of our communities, will soon be a thing of the past.
    Last year there were over 360 applications across the UK from Asda, Tesco, Morrisons et al. to build out of town superstores. For every 200 jobs created by these companies, 285 jobs are lost locally.

  32. Peter Mirtitsch says:

    Jimbo, thing is, these large superstores provide everything with one visit, and cheaper than individual shops on the high street. That is why I go there, and many millions of others do. Sad to say but true

  33. CameronB says:

    The Rough Bounds says:
    2 June, 2013 at 9:31 pm

    “Now they just want your money and give you bugger all.
    FFS. Is this really what it is all coming to?”
    Well that kind of does away with need to watch the hour and a half long lecture I posted earlier, critiquing neoliberalism. 😉

  34. Ronnie says:

    @Bill C
    Union Street, Aberdeen was, of course, named after the 1800 union with Ireland and not, as many think, the union with England, although I’m not sure what was the intention behind naming the recently created shopping mall ‘Union Square’.

  35. Holebender says:

    scottish_skier says:
    2 June, 2013 at 8:33 pm
    Interesting that they’re fading out the saltire blue in the John Lewis flag.
    Are they fading it, or just changing it from UJ blue to Saltire blue?

  36. Jamie Arriere says:

    Maybe it’s time for council to reverse the logic in rates charging and make the out-of-town rates higher than the town centre. 

  37. ANNE B says:

    Several issues need to be tackled to allow the high street to revive.
    Free street parking to compete with the free parking that supermarkets have.
    decent on street furniture t allow communities to sit around and enjoy the city and meet up.
    free parking
    small businesses to join together nationally to allow superior buying power
    copy Perth Australia where they have free local bus services to bring people into the city centre/high street
    individual shops have to compete with late hours and not shut at 5.30 or close on sundays. shut on a monday and tuesday hich are quiet days instead.
    oh and em…
    free parking. just like the supermarkets have. or tax the parking places in the supermarkets.

  38. CameronB says:

    @ ANNE B
    It might help if companies like Tesco and WM Morrison Supermarkets, actually paid their tax in the UK.

  39. seoc says:

    Can tumbleweed grow in the new bankrupt Britain? Probably needs a grant to entice it.

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