Perth shopkeeper points a way to a brighter future

Mary Dodds and Dawn Cotton Fuge.
Mary Dodds and Dawn Cotton Fuge.

PERTH’S INDEPENDENT shops need a clear signpost to future success.

Dawn Cotton Fuge, who is behind the Shop Local Perth Facebook page, said simple, cheap options could revitalise the Fair City centre.

Amid continuing economic woes, Dawn, who runs Theo and Tilly and Precious Sparkle Beads on Charlotte Street, said she is staggered that local people still don’t know the shopping options open to them.

Many of the independent shops for which Perth is known across the country are tucked away on side streets to avoid High Street rates levels.

Dawn, who has traded in Perth for nine years, said better signposting and publicity could quickly boost flagging fortunes.

She said: “It amazes me there is an idea that Perth is not a place to shop because the High Street has empty units and there are a lot of charity shops.

“If people get off the High Street more and look about they’ll find the quality independents and that’s the message we’re trying to get out there.

“One person said there are no shops for children and I pointed out there are five children’s shops in the centre he just wasn’t aware. That’s the perception of people who live here, which is astonishing.

“There is no doubting the fact we don’t have the footfall we would have on the High Street, but there is no way we could afford it. It’s genuinely not possible for little shops to meet those overheads.”

One idea she is keen to take forward was picked up in France. Small bollards with signs directing people to independent retailers are a common feature on the streets there.

An alternative would be a glass-fronted cabinet on the High Street containing a street map with local shops marked on it. She said it could be funded by the shops paying a nominal fee.

Other options are a similarly marked street map for distribution by the tourist centre, or delivery to local homes.

“It would be such an easy thing to do,” she said. “The costs wouldn’t be prohibitive hundreds or maybe low thousands of pounds but cheaper than fireworks and maybe more effective.”

Her reference to fireworks was in response to complaints that the recent council-led Christmas Lights Festival, which closed George Street to traffic, was disastrous for some shops.

She said: “We would never say no to anything, because anything that attracts people is good, but the other view is there is so much more that could be done.

“We’re at the stage where independents will be meeting together to see what we can do. I don’t want to bash the council, but we need to take the bull by the horns and assume the council won’t do anything.

“We have to spread the word through every way we can. We don’t want to stagnate.

“There is no way to avoid the signs of the times with the downturn, but we have to do what we can to keep our shops.

“I and the other independents are so willing to do more and if we could take the council with us it would make all the difference.”

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