Selkirk’s Chamber of Trade has been awarded nearly £22,000 to set up pop-up shops around the royal burgh, in order to help reverse its 30 per cent drop in pedestrian footfall.
The cash is being provided by LEADER (Links Between Activities Developing the Rural Economy) and common good fund sources.
A third of the sum (£7,200) will fund a part-time project manager for 60 days’ work to see the pop-up shop initiative from beginning to end. Much of the rest will also be devoted to helping owners renovate empty shops and unused outbuildings in the town centre and its many historic closes.
“More than 16 per cent of retail units in the town are left vacant,” explained chamber chairman Will Haegeland, co-owner of the town’s County Hotel. “A town centre showing boarded-up and closed-down retail units suggests dilapidation and depression. If Selkirk as a town is to survive, this trend has to be arrested and reversed.”
Within the project period, which ends on December 31, 2013, the chamber aims to find uses for at least five currently-underused shops and create three new start-up businesses and seven short-term lets.
“Selkirk Chamber of Trade and Commerce thinks it is time to regain a feeling of community and pride for the High Street,” Mr Haegeland said. “In and around Selkirk there is a vast range of arts, crafts and food produce being made, but very little of this is for sale within the town. Very few are acknowledged in the town centre, yet all may benefit from frequent exposure and outlets there.
“Despite its setting and its literary and historical associations, Selkirk does not seem to offer enough to encourage prolonged visits by tourists. Measures to improve this situation need to be supported by healthy retailing, attractive to visitors and locals.
“The pop-up shop project aims to be a real tool in moving the town centre forward and into a more exciting and vibrant place to visit. It will help encourage visitors to see Selkirk as a worthwhile destination and to extend ‘dwell-time’.”
The initiative will also assist start-up businesses, Mr Haegeland added.
“Finding retailers that are willing to give long-term leases of retail space has proven increasingly difficult throughout the economic recession,” he said. “Retail space owners therefore need to look at new ways of filling vacant retail space. Short term rent, including by the day, week or month is a way of reducing the risk on both parties.
“We want people who are owners of empty premises to come and speak to us – because the pop-up shop will not just benefit them, but the whole town.”
The remainder of the money will fund events and marketing for the town’s new pop-up shops. The new project manager’s role will be to focus on promotion by targeting prospective users, preparing and distributing literature and press articles, and arrange scheduling.
Anyone interested in applying for the new role, or who would like to rent or hire an empty premise for a pop-up shop, should contact Will at Selkirk’s County Hotel on 01750 21233.