16th August 2017

Blatantly disheartening (Eleanor Eunson)

As former chair of Living Lerwick, I have been following the reports and correspondence over the past few weeks and feel compelled to make the following observations.

Living Lerwick is a Business improvement district – please note Business, not simply Retail improvement district. Retail is part but not all of its functions.

Whilst serving as chair, all businesses were personally contacted by either myself or Cynthia Adamson, the then vice chair. We talked to all businesses, inviting the members to workshops to see how we could successfully integrate the retail, services and hospitality areas.

We asked them how they wished their company to move ahead. Sadly, some businesses failed to understand the impact of the other businesses in the area and are now making open criticisms. At that time the message coming was “I’m all right just now, why worry?”.

Out-with the “tourist season” the retail sector still needs footfall and our service industries and hospitality bring this to the centre of Lerwick. All businesses need to work together and complement each other.

It is blatantly disheartening that those making the most adverse comments at present have been conspicuously absent in the contributions to the BID – it’s meetings, workshops and assisting with events. The Board formed from the members, instructs the management team. The members are not expected to do everything but a few hours per month commitment isn’t really too much to ask for a thriving BID. More members should try it – be surprised and enjoy it.

Today’s comment from Robert Wishart “cosying up to the council” – I can assure you that this is not even on the agenda. Indeed, there have been several occasions when the council has proven to be more of an obstacle. Due to the structuring of BIDs, the council has to be involved and they are also an essential player in obtaining additional outside funding for the BID.

So, to Robert and his dissenters – I quote two old sayings:

“Empty vessels make the most noise” there’s a lot of noise around right now. Prove me wrong and let’s use the better saying “actions speak louder than words”. It’s time for businesses to work together – get off your soap box and do something positive to see a “buzz” around Lerwick.

Eleanor Eunson
South Haven
Whiteness

19 comments

  1. S V Jolly

    Current BID Scheme ends 31/08/2017. Want to continue for another 5 years. Stating that if businesses vote no, they’ll lose the following is being a tad dishonest with the truth; is it not?

    From their website:

    “A NO VOTE MEANS …
     No Shopping Week, Winter Festival and surrounding events and competitions,
    drawing people to the area
     No Christmas lights
     No Large Christmas tree at the cross
     No Small Christmas trees
     No Gutter cleaning
     No Summer flower scheme (flowers, bunting and street furniture
    including additional seating)
     No Representation
     No Promotion of available parking and access
     No external funding
     No volunteer hours
     No WorldHost training or destination status for Lerwick town centre
     No Information on training available circulated to membership
     No Promotion of businesses
     No Heritage trail with mobile phone app designed to attract tourists to the area”

    All for between £200 and £850 pa per business. The last 5 years speak for themselves; when your Facebook page has less likes than the one for the sale room, something is wrong. Until the street offers what customers really want, at prices they can afford, gimmicks simply don’t wash.

    Reply
    • Andrew Simpson

      So, if not Living Lerwick who will provide and manage the above list you’ve mentioned Suzi? I’m keen to know.

      Reply
      • Suzy V Jolly

        Are you seriously suggesting that if Norway donate a Christmas tree that Shetland is going to respond with “Thanks but no thanks, we’ve got nobody to organise putting it up”?

        Gutter cleaning: what precisely does this mean? If you’re referring to the drains, then that’s the responsibility of the council, isn’t it? Or is the reference to the shop gutters in which case, that’ll depend upon the terms of their individual leases.

        No promotion of businesses? Love you to explain how that one works to those who have their own individual thriving Facebook pages.

        Who did those tasks on the list prior to the invention of Living Lerwick then? Or are you insinuating nobody did any of them? 😉

  2. Gillian Ramsay

    As a former retailer I have to say that is impossible to provide goods at prices to compete with online retailers, who often don’t hold actual stock, and get vastly reduced prices for the sheer volume they ‘purchase’ at. Local shops simply cannot buy at these prices, so cannot sell at them. My haulage bills were often hundreds of pounds each month just to get goods up here. The street is dying because people aren’t using it. When local retailers are not supported, shops close, jobs go, people leave, schools close, more people leave….. I buy online if it’s something I cannot get up here, or the price difference is vast. I don’t have a bottomless pocket, but I completely understand the position of retailers and their pricing. I voted for BId, I believe the street should be pedestrianised, purely because people are selfish and inconsiderate, and am grateful for the speed bumps…..

    Reply
  3. John N Hunter

    Why is it that every scheme to improve Lerwick town centre involves making parking more difficult? If you want to park under the Fort you have to drive in to see if there is a space, probably waiting to let cars coming the opposite direction go by. You then drive to end only to find no spaces as many are used by longer term parkers rather than shoppers so you turn (if nobody is blocking the turning area) and drive off. Once again held up once more by cars coming the opposite direction. Then the pier is closed because of a cruise ship so you go home and order online.

    My suggestion would be a deck on Victoria Pier, high enough to let tour buses to get in the ground floor. Such a structure need be no higher than the old Steamer Store. I am sure Living Lerwick could help with getting grants.

    Reply
    • Andrew Simpson

      John, ask the SIC and the LPA, that is their remit. Living Lerwick has no say in those arrangements and when they tried to get BID members round the table to discuss the lastest changes to the Esplanade only 4 businesses replied out of 140 and even after much persuasion only 21% acknowledged a questionnaire on those issues. How can Living Lerwick put up an argument or a fight with the SIC when very few members seem to be interested? No point in them complaining after the fact.

      Reply
      • Fraser cluness

        Goes to show that only 4 shops actually respect LL enough to return their information. Why the lows esteem in this company? Only 4 reply’s tells you quite a lot on what the business think of Living Lerwick. Living Lerwick does nothing that shops couldn’t do themselves, which some already do and LL takes the credit for it. Looking at the list what won’t happen if LL was to fold,
        I think they only thing we would miss is the Christmas tree and the one string of lights down the street. Perhaps the Lerwick Community Council could pick up that baton and share the cost to the town business’? Going on the disgrace of the tree last year They couldn’t do any worse.

  4. Andrew Simpson

    Suzi……….Norway donate two Xmas trees, they go to Scalloway and Whalsay. Gutter cleaning was not done before LL on a town centre wide scale – it’s done because in surveys people complained about being drookled on wet days by overflowing gutters. The promotion aspect – businesses get additional reach through sharing their posts with a different audience on the LL Facebook page and specific events pages. These pages also regularly have paid promotion, which increases reach well beyond page likes. They also have directory pages on LL website that they are in control of. Also, the town centre as a whole and its businesses are advertised using all local media. The SIC did some of them but gave up providing all complementary services when the cuts came in. Some of the services were provided by LTCA, which formed the BID as the organisation could not be staffed or financially sustained without the BID model. Hope that helps with your questions.

    Now then, I’ve answered a host of your questions but you fail to answer the only question I asked in my first response…..What is your alternative plan if the BID vote fails? Simple question really, no hidden agenda!

    Reply
    • Suzy V Jolly

      Andrew, I have the courtesy of spelling your name correctly, I can’t help but wonder why you can’t do the same?

      Guttering should be the responsibility of leaseholders or the freeholders. If it’s an environmental issue, why aren’t SIC enforcing it?

      I do sympathise with businesses regarding overheads but at the end of the day, is Living Lerwick worth their cost to businesses? It would appear that not only are customers voting with their feet, but so are businesses.

      Alternative to Living Lerwick? You pay business rates, or at least some businesses do dependent upon the RV. Whatever the Scot.Gov. or the SIC have a legal obligation to do, businesses should be approaching them to do. There was an association long before Living Lerwick was invented, was that cheaper? Other businesses outwith the zone also contribute towards the Shetland economy, they are just as worthy of support and yet they advertise themselves. If businesses can’t survive without Living Lerwick, then they need to look for advice elsewhere, as is available nationally. At the end of the day, it does come down to what I said earlier, if the shops on the street aren’t selling goods at prices and with the choice folk want, folk will go elsewhere. Mirrie Dancers are an outstanding addition to the street and their goods are available not just by mail order through their internet site but also elsewhere in Shetland; perhaps others could follow?

      Reply
      • Andrew Simpson

        Sorry Suzy, autocorrect I believe,

        LTCA which over 20 years did a great deal for less payment re memberships but had the fortitude of accessing major investment from the then ‘flush’ SIC and even local community council hence the smaller membership fees. BID is still in its infancy especially when you look at other BID Schemes on the mainland. Third and final time of asking…….what are your alternatives? Cheers

      • Suzy V Jolly

        @Andrew – I gave alternatives.

      • Andrew simpson

        You only gave a general summarisation but basically what you are describing is the BID. A scheme which IS looked upon favourably by the govt. as the preferred model for gaining accesss to outside funding. That is why the BID scheme is the model used up and down the country.

        I’m flabbergasted that people who have the knowledge and common sense don’t realise that the BID as a scheme fits in with all that you describe above but they want rid of it why????

        All I can see their complaint is that it’s not run the way they want it. You don’t cut your nose off to spite your face. Do something about, get on board(as has been offered), invest some of your own time and MAKE change happen.

        If you can do that then surely it can only be of help, if not, don’t sit on the sidelines offering absolutely zero input or support, instead, always making negative comments, using the media to gain a groundswell of opinion on half story’s to gain support against a scheme which is there to help everyone in the area bring the place back to life. When all is said and done the BID scheme is still in its infancy.

        That’ll be my last input on this conversation, it’s the weekend. Cheers.

  5. Johan Adamson

    The problem is no one really has the answer to what to do with da street. Maybe you just accept that folk drive oot ower and go to Tescos and shop online? Hell mend them when they need something and the shop just isnt there anymore? The parking certainly is an issue they need to solve, so should get some money spent on it, you have to accept that the vast majority of customers take their car in ower.

    Some of the issue with this is surely spending money with no evidence that there has been any meeting of the objectives of the Bid, but then in the absence of a really really good idea and a plan, at least they are trying something.

    Reply
  6. Suzy V Jolly

    @Andrew
    What I described is NOT a BID. It’s a real shame you are blatantly ignoring the key point – people don’t go to the street because many of the shops do NOT sell what people want in; there’s not enough folk for niche products! Why is that so hard for you to understand?

    Why should a successful business on the street basically subsidise another that doesn’t open on a Wednesday afternoon or on a Sunday? Why should businesses pay a tidy sum to Living Lerwick?

    You can’t really cover the street as it would be a nightmare. You could, however, do a deal re what Christmas tree goes where each year and alternate.

    Build a small retail park. Have shops from up south. Re-develop the entire street with compulsory purchase is necessary and turn it into a tourist trap but only open certain months.

    Hay fever sufferers don’t want flowers in tubs. The majority of folk don’t need fancy street furniture. They could, however, no doubt benefit from non-slippery payment (the street is shocking underfoot).

    When are you going to realise you can’t flog a dead horse?

    Reply
  7. Robin Mouatt

    @Suzy V Jolly It would seem that you have deemed da Street as dead, “when are you going to realise you can’t flog a dead horse,” so why you feel the need to completely condemn the people who have worked hard to try and facilitate improvement is a little perplexing. It is baffling that you also seem very focused on shops only catering to a niche market yet the one shop you have chosen to praise is quite probably the most niche shop on da Street – no offence to Mirrie Dancers which I think is splendid shop.

    Everyone of the shops on da Street work very hard to provide products which they believe consumers want at the best price they can – it would be a very poor business model if they did not. If people took the time to look around the street rather than going first to the internet they might be surprised at the range that is available in shops here.

    I have found that often when people complain about range and prices available in Lerwick shops, it turns out that when you drill down to what they actually want is for there to be a Marks & Spencers or a Primark here. It is not the fault of any shop on da Street that there are not any of these chain shops here, rather the chain shops have concluded that there is not a large enough demand in Shetland for them to return a large enough profit margin.

    People also complain about the lack of parking around da Street, I’m not sure if I have ever seen the Old Swimming Pool Car Park full (this car park is no distance from da street at all) and if it were to be redeveloped into a multi-storey car park would anyone use it or just complain that there is a lack of free parking? What we have seen since the traffic warden position disappeared is a lack of management with parking and driving over the street becoming something of a free for all. It would seem people have become accustomed to the idea of parking within feet of where they want to shop and this is possibly the most complex problem facing Lerwick’s town centre at the moment.

    Lerwick’s town centre, like most town centres across the country, face a range of challenges and I personally think Lerwick is doing quite well, there are only a few unfilled shops, there is variety and it is generally neat and tidy with a good environment. Of course there are improvements to be made and Living Lerwick is a good way to do this as there is requirement for a united body to represent the shops, it just requires a willingness to work in unity which of course is not always as easy as it may seem.

    Reply
    • Suzy V Jolly

      @Robin – Mirrie Dancers is meeting a demand and since when has decent chocolate been a niche product? Chocolate has sold for decades; hell, if not centuries, very well! I disagree with you regarding choice on the street – compared to other High Streets throughout the UK, it is poor and more than one unit is currently up for sale. I’m not saying people don’t work hard but in this day and age, is a half day closing warranted? Or closing for lunch? Have you spoken to the large retailers or are you simply assuming that they don’t want to come to Shetland? Last time I looked, Boots the Chemist was deemed to be a large retailer, as are M & Co.

      Reply
    • Johan Adamson

      I agree with Robin about the parking although not about the old swimming poll car park, I think it is difficult to find a space. I agree that there is anarchy with the parking which has only gotten worse with the new traffic calming. Folk use the disabled spaces and park around the cross which is much worse for the tourists than it ever was before. What do you expect if long term parking is allowed in the short term spaces?

      Suzy it took more than 40 years to get Boots here and actually our chemists were quite good before they came.

      Reply
  8. David Spence

    Surely, in regards to ‘ the street ‘ (the main shopping area of Commercial Street) the Council have an obligation to provide lighting and cleaning the street (for health and safety reasons) regardless whether or not there are businesses in the area?

    The only rates the shops in Commercial Street are paying for is, in affect, is refuse collection?

    However, many shops seem to complain about other aspects to the charge of the rates they are having to pay for?

    The listing Suzy, has mentioned, how much of this is a) Council Responsibility or b) The SIC having to pay for through other legislation apart from Rates?

    Reply
  9. Robert Wishart

    Of course it is disheartening. That is precisely the point I was making in my letter to the paper. If dragging up pointless quotes is supposed to refute my comments here’s another – “You can’t flog a dead horse.” You wouldn’t continue to hire one either.

    Reply

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