If you are walking on Sauchiehall Street you could take two steps forward, one step back. That’s what those with an investment in the street must be feeling with the news of Watt Brothers going into administration.

Fellow business owners, large and small, the hundreds of workers in the shops and the customers who want the street to survive and thrive will be saddened and frustrated in equal measure at the latest retail obituary.

Unless a buyer is found, the loss of the firm is a huge blow to the efforts of those striving to bring the famous street back to something approaching its former glory.

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Businesses on the street suffered greatly during the closures caused by fires at Victoria’s nightclub and Glasgow School of Art – twice, in 2014 and 2018, when the blaze also devastated the ABC complex.

One famous name, Lauder’s, has only recently re-opened after a long closure and complete refurbishment of the bar following the Victoria’s fire.

The Avenues Project to improve the street and attract more people has only recently been completed and there is hope the ABC will again be the music hub it once was.

But the prospect of another big empty retail unit on the pedestrianised main shopping stretch will lead to hearts sinking in town planners’ chests. The headache of what to do with a 20th-Century, architecturally splendid but commercially challenging building is the last problem they need.

It is the latest casualty in the retail sector as shoppers change habits and the cost of a high street presence becomes harder to sustain.

Grant Lonsdale, senior real estate analyst at CoStar Group in Glasgow, said: “Retail is more and more focusing on the prime sites, which in Glasgow is Buchanan Street, and the ‘Golden Z’ has contracted at either end. There are other areas, such as Ingram Street, near Queen Street, which has had a renaissance.

“On Sauchiehall Street the fires certainly did not help, but there has been good work going on. The Avenues project is helping to improve the street and office and hotel developments are happening. The vacancy rate on the street is high and is going to rise, which has an impact on rents.”

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With big names seeking a presence in Buchanan Street or as close to it as possible, Sauchiehall Street’s future may lie in alternatives to retail.

The scale of the challenge is evident in the sight of the former BHS premises, which still lie vacant despite office and retail development plans already being published but which are yet to get under way.

The Victoria’s site is a gap in the streetscape. Dunnes stores and the upper floors of the old Littlewoods building – the lower floor is now occupied by Tesco – also lies dormant.

The Savoy Centre is struggling for an identity and customers despite a refit and several discount stores and tartan giftshops occupy smaller units that have only limited appeal, aesthetic value or sustainability.

Mr Lonsdale added: “Not many retailers would be looking at it but others could. Dunnes’ building is being turned into a hotel and there are office developments.”

Glasgow is not alone in the challenges facing its retail sector. “It’s playing out in different cities as retail faces the challenges of changing shopping habits”, Mr Lonsdale added.

Administrators KPMG are looking for a buyer for Watt Brothers and the wider business community is hoping it is successful.

Stuart Patrick, chief of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, said: “The last thing the area needs as it is rejuvenated by the completion of its Avenues project is for this prime location to lie vacant. We can only hope the administrators manage to find a buyer.”

It is a hope that will be echoed by many who want to see Sauchiehall Street recover once again.