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‘Extremely saddening’: North business leaders fear more shops ‘will never reopen’ amid high street struggles

Elgin BID's Gemma Cruickshank is pictured in Elgin town centre.
Elgin BID's Gemma Cruickshank is pictured in Elgin town centre.

North business leaders have weighed in on the future of the High Street after the closure of the John Lewis store in Aberdeen brought the matter into focus.

Elgin BID’s chief executive Gemma Cruickshank believes Elgin’s High Street is in a “strong position” to bounce back from the pandemic’s financial woes.

Mrs Cruickshank told the P&J: ‘It is extremely saddening to read the news of John Lewis’ departure from Aberdeen and I hope there can be some persuasion for them to stay.

“Elgin is in a strong position and we have a fantastic offering of local businesses within the centre along with some key nationals.

‘We will do everything we can to save John Lewis’: Aberdeen begins fight to save iconic department store

“I believe once businesses begin to reopen on the 5th and 26th of April there will be a strong urge for people to shop local and our businesses really need this support now more than ever.

“We are seeing across the country ‘if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it’ so get out there and support your local and national businesses within Elgin.”

Moray Chambers of Commerce’s Kara Stewart added: “The high street is going through its biggest change in a generation, and it is sad news to hear of such an iconic, respected retailer closing in Aberdeen.

“We know the effects the pandemic has had on consumer habits and retail.”

Fears that more shops “will never reopen”

In Inverness, economist Tony Mackay expects more businesses to shut their doors permanently due to the rise of people working from home and shopping online.

This comes as the Inverness Eastgate Shopping Centre has already lost Debenhams, chocolate chain Thorntons and Topshop this year.

Mr Mackay said: “At the moment things look really bad and especially with around 70% of shops still closed because of coronavirus restrictions.

“It is because of the move to online and working from home changes.

“I think quite a lot of the shops that are temporally closed will never reopen and that has certainty been true with the Eastgate Shopping Centre as recently Debenhams,  Thorntons and Topshop all announced that they will not reopen.

“Another big problem is Highland Council and other organisations are working from home so thousands of people are not working in Inverness and spending money.”

However, he welcomed more people shopping local in smaller towns like Nairn and Dingwall.

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