ONE of Glasgow’s most established independent retailers has admitted he fears for the future of the city centre as a shopping destination.

Sandy Greaves, whose family have run sports stores in the city since 1930, is seeing more and more of his sales being generated online as traditional “bricks and mortar” stores come under more and more pressure.

And the retailer believes more should be done to improve conditions for retailers in the city centre, declaring that planning decisions which led to the development of out of town shopping and leisure centres have hit the high street hard.

Mr Greaves, who joined the family business in 1980, said: “Dare I say it, the council have put so many barriers in place to stop people coming in, or to not make it such a nice environment. They are [now] talking about the parking meters going back on a Sunday. What can we do as retailers?

“They have surrounded us with shopping centres at every artery into Glasgow – you’ve got Braehead, the Fort, [and] Silverburn. You’ve got to go past a shopping centre [and] you can park there for nothing. You don’t have the not-so-nice issues… I clean needles out my doorway every morning, virtually. It’s just dire.”

Mr Greaves, whose family closed its long-standing store on Sauchiehall Street last year, added: “The council aren’t getting my rates now in Sauchiehall Street. The shops are becoming empty. Where does it come to a [point] where they turn off the [parking] meters on a Saturday, or trial a Saturday and Sunday off, or a three-month trial during the summer to try and help the city centre and get folk in?”

Mr Greaves’ comments capture wider concerns held by traders in the city centre, who believe Glasgow’s reputation for not just retailing but nightlife and tourism is under threat too. One business owner agreed that Glasgow city centre is paying the price for the creation of the out of town centres.

Fearing that Glasgow is falling increasingly under Edinburgh’s shadow, a trend he expects to worsen with the development of the £1 billion Edinburgh St James retail and leisure project, the source said Glasgow is crying out for a big name retailer such as Selfridges to come to the city. He said “Glasgow needs something” to help stem the steady flow of shoppers to the Scottish capital.

The Greaves family has just one store in the city centre now, in Gordon Street. The closure of its Sauchiehall Street store severed the link the family had with the area which stretched back to 1960, when it acquired the old Lumley’s store. There had been a sports store in the site since 1900.

But Greaves is not the only retailer to find trading on Sauchiehall Street difficult. Watt Brothers, another family retailer, said the future of its department store on the street is now in doubt. Its managing director, Willie Watt, said it may have to be closed to help cut debts. Dunnes, the department store chain, has already exited the street.

Mr Greaves said the street had become “tired-looking” after BHS closed.

He added: “It’s sad really, because when you go back to when I started out, you had Daly’s and you had department stores up there.

“You talked about Sauchiehall Street from Rose Street right down… the two Marks & Spencers were the link in the town – now the Z has become an I.”

“In these days, people had two to three shops in the town. Now, is there any requirement for two to three shops? At one time we were keen to open in Edinburgh, but now you can service it from the internet. The internet has been a massive change in retail.”

Greaves now generates 10% of its sales and Mr Greaves can envisage the internet becoming the “mainstay” of the business in future, something he would once have never imagined. But it comes at a cost.

Mr Greaves said: “You get people coming in saying they are just trying [shoes, clothes] for size because they are going to buy online. There is no shame. [But] if you treat shops like showrooms, they are not going to be here.

“I always remember going into Kelso town centre and they all had a sticker in the door [saying] use us or loose us. Now we don’t haver Crockett’s any more, which is a sin. The department stores are gone.”

He added: “Don’t get me wrong, I sell stuff to Texas online, I sell stuff to Athens. It is quite bizarre sometimes, where we send products to, but I really think we need to protect the city centre.”

While he understands the need for city centres to offer bars and restaurants, “you still need the shops there.”

But he is candid about how unwelcoming parts of the city centre have become to shoppers amid concerns about drug problems on the streets.

“It’s not a nice place to come [to],” He said. “Look what you have to walk through. If you come out of Central Station or Queen Street Station, if you just take an instant snapshot view of what you have there, why can that be not tidied up? Why can’t we either have more police in the street? “

However, in spite of Glasgow’s problems, he does not foresee the family withdrawing from the city centre. He said: “My son is in the business, and my nephew is in the business. I don’t like the fact that they maybe feel the pressure of keeping the shop going. But I would hate to think there wasn’t a Greaves in the town.”