Perth is about to lose its biggest department store. Traders are calling for better business rates and free parking, while politicians are told to stop talking the city down.
Ever get the feeling of deja vu?
Administrators KPMG rocked the retail sector on Friday night with the sad but not totally unexpected announcement that 12 Beales stores will close, including the chain’s only Scottish branch in St John Street, Perth.
Given the well publicised problems the Bournemouth firm has been facing, the news was hardly surprising – but still potentially devastating for a fragile city centre like Perth.
It seems like only a short time ago that Beales moved into the grand McEwens of Perth building, amid great fanfare.
It was a coup for Perth and Kinross Council, which had been working hard behind the scenes to woo the company with attractive rates packages.
But it was a big pair of shoes for Beales to fill, and sadly the company didn’t quite deliver the economic boost some were expecting, perhaps unrealistically in hindsight.
Its hard not to feel that we’ve been down this road before.
After McEwens went into administration in 2016, shopkeepers attended a series of meetings to discuss the city centre’s future.
The things they were calling for then – better parking, fairer rates – were the same things they demanded at a similar meeting just three weeks ago.
But we mustn’t view the collapse of Beales as the final nail in the coffin for Perth city centre. In fact, there are several reasons to remain optomistic.
For example, the latest plans for a family restaurant at the old Bright House unit may have proved controversial to some, but at least it signals that planners are supporting diversity on the high street.
New developments such as City Hall and the planned hotel on Tay Street should bring in tourists, as well as fresh interest in Perth as a visitor destination.
And the enormous Perth West masterplan that was revealed last week suggests the city is a becoming a more attractive prospect for investors.
Of course, all of this will be of little comfort to Beales staff who are left facing an uncertain future. Supporting them – as was done with McEwens’ workforce – should remain a top priority over the coming weeks.
Trading in city centres is always going to be turbulent, and Beales almost certainly won’t be the last high profile closure to spark panic.
But it’s a stark reminder that if we shoppers want to support our local high streets, we need to change our habits and start moving away from those more convenient internet sales.