Margaret Sweetnam has been appointed Selkirk’s pop-up shop project manager.
The Royal Burgh’s Chamber of Trade was awarded nearly £22,000 in January to create about five pop-up shops in the town’s centre and historic closes, in order to help reverse its 30 per cent drop in pedestrian footfall.
A third of the sum (£7,200) funds the part-time project manager for 60 days’ work to see the pop-up shop initiative through until it ends in December. The remainder of the funding, provided by LEADER and the Selkirk Common Good Fund, will help owners renovate empty shops, and promote the businesses which can rent the shops for a day, a week, or a month, without being tied to long-term leases.
Lawrence Robertson, one of the Chamber of Trade’s four-strong selection panel, explained: “Margaret is well known in Selkirk, is very switched on, a good listener, imaginative, and has a good understanding of all the issues. We are confident that she will do great work for the town.”
Mrs Sweetnam, who lives the Royal Burgh with her husband Richard and their children, said: “I’m excited and delighted to be doing something in Selkirk that can make a difference in the town.
“The big challenge will be outreaching to visitors. There are lots of things to attract people here, but, as the Chamber of Trade acknowledged, we don’t seem as successful at keeping them here to spend their money.
“It’s not about being in competition with other businesses that are already here, but enhancing the offer. There are lots of creative people in and around Selkirk who you don’t notice because they don’t have a shopfront. It can be a huge commitment for them to take on a lease for years.”
The former marketing manager for Scotland’s National Museums added: “Marketing will be an important aspect in this job. I’m interested in how you build audiences for things. Selkirk’s High Street faces the same challenges as other towns: it’s tough times, with so much competition.
“Nobody is pretending pop-up shops will be the answer, but I think the Chamber of Trade is being brave and creative trying this.”
Margaret’s first task will be a feasibility study next month to identify businesses, landlords and priorities for the project.
Mrs Sweetnam also chairs Selkirk’s Play Park Project Scheme, which aims to transform the town’s Pringle Park into a £300,000 natural play mecca for local children. The group, which was given Scottish Borders Council planning permission in December, has already raised £50,000, and will hear if its £250,000 lottery funding bid was successful by the end of February.