Shop workers rally demanding action to breathe life back into high streets

© DC ThomsonShop workers from union Usdaw gather on Union Street
Shop workers from union Usdaw gather on Union Street

Shop workers took to the streets of Aberdeen at the weekend calling for more support to be given to the ailing retail sector.

Members of union Usdaw are demanding that councils and governments pay more attention to the plight of rapidly-declining town and city centres across the country.

The organisation says greater investment is needed to breathe life back into shopping districts – including offering business rates relief and creating a more level playing field between high street and online retail.

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Usdaw also wants a £10 minimum wage, clampdown on zero-hours contacts and investment in skills and training to help protect the UK’s three million retail jobs.

© DC Thomson
Kate Cumming, Aberdeen area organiser for union Usdaw

The union’s area organiser Kate Cumming said: “We had lots of support from the public.

“Anything that would help the retail sector would be good, whether that’s through short-term leases, or lower business rates.

“We are shop workers, so we want to try and protect jobs in the sector, which is obviously key to the economy and provides jobs for millions of families.”

Last week, plans were lodged to transform the former BHS and Aberdeen Market building into a new venue for shops, offices and restaurants.

Meanwhile the Scottish Government announced a £50 million fund to revitalise town centres across the country, including grants totalling £4.6m for Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, and work is ongoing by Aberdeen City Council to realise its masterplan for the area’s main thoroughfare.

© Supplied
An artist’s impression of the revamped Aberdeen market, looking onto The Green from Stirling Street.

Mrs Cumming said it was vital that more initiatives were launched to boost footfall numbers and help traders.

She added: “More shops are moving away from the city centre to shopping centres or retail parks because they don’t see people on the high street any more.”

Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said: “We all understand the current challenge to the high street and the ongoing transition that is going on, both locally and nationally.

“We have some fantastic examples of retail, both chain and local independents, on Union Street and the wider city centre and we encourage support for them at all levels.”

“The latest proposal to transform the new market is an example of growing city centre confidence, although it will continue to be a challenging operating environment for the foreseeable future.”