IT was second only to the shopping mecca of London at one point.

However, the days of retail dominating Glasgow city centre are over, according to the leader of a post-pandemic recovery taskforce,

Jane Laiolo, Group Manager for City Centre Regeneration, said there were no easy fixes but diversification of the high street will be key including "experiences” you don’t find in out-of-town malls.

The St Enoch Centre yesterday unveiled the first phase of a multi-million-pound redevelopment, which includes a new nine-screen cinema.The £40million investment in the centre will also see the addition of a bowling alley and entertainment centre.

While longer term plans are focussed on sustainability, greener traffic and improving the visual appearance of the city centre, the short-term priority is to get more people there - by whatever means -  and spending money. This will be against the challenging backdrop of blended office working.

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“One of the absolute critical issues is office return,” said Ms Laiolo.

“Until we understand what the Scottish government strategy is, we are not going to see the volume of footfall that we need. The long term focus is about sustainability but in the short-term we need to get as close as possible to normal patterns of people coming in and spending money.”

Like many cities, Glasgow has suffered the loss of major high street names. UK brand Whistles became the latest casualty of the pandemic, announcing the closure of its flagship Princes Square store last week after 18 years. 

“Edinburgh and Manchester are two that we always compete with but we have managed to keep our retail offering.

"The pandemic has had a massive effect on retail but we are all on a level playing field to some degree.

“It’s not as if Glasgow is performing any worse than any others and we certainly we need to ensure we have got a strong high-quality retail offering but it needs to change.

“The days of the dominance of retail in Glasgow city centre have gone. Mainly because we want to move the city centre away from that and create more of an experience that attracts people to the leisure, the theatre, the cultural offers that you don’t find in the out of town malls.

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However, there is little doubt retail will still play a huge role in the city centre economy. The clothing brand All Saints is to move to a bigger unit on Buchanan Street and has said the Glasgow store is the most successful outside London.

“Perhaps we need to think of retail differently. We want to have schemes and incentives that will encourage more independent traders. Fees for outdoor cafes have been waived and we are looking at how we can re-purpose some of the major retailers that have left.

“We are talking to a lot of commercial property agents and there is still very strong interest in the city. There are a lot of cranes everywhere. The hotels are facing a difficult Summer though.” 

Edinburgh city council leaders could be forced to overhaul emergency pop-up cycle lanes after thousands of residents told council bosses they oppose the measures.

A council-run public consultation, which received 17,600 responses – found a majority of locals opposed the Safer Spaces measures, which also included wider pavements. A similar consultation has been launched in Glasgow.

“When we first installed the infrastructure, we took feedback from the members of the taskforce and we adapted it, said Ms Laiolo.

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"So we removed some of the features and installed some in new areas and took away the red and white barriers.

"I would hope that we will not get a negative response but it’s too early to say.”

She said a big focus of the taskforce will be helping the night time economy, a fundamental part of the city centre that she said had been particularly disadvantaged.

“While we are moving into Level 2,  businesses are still really trying to assess how that is going to affect their re-opening plans because many are not going to be viable due to social distancing measures.

“It’s important that we manage to help it recover because we are seeing that sector being particularly disadvantaged by the fact that England is opening up faster than us.

“Even when we are in Level 0 there will be restrictions. There aren’t any easy fixes for the city centre.”