SHOPPERS in Galashiels are being urged to support retailers in the traditional town centre after another major brand announced it was closing its outlet in the town.
After 15 years trading in Channel Street, budget cosmetics and pharmaceutical company Semi-Chem has announced it will shut the branch at the end of March with the loss of four jobs.
A spokesperson for the company said this week: “Trading conditions have been difficult for some time and we have unfortunately had to close our store in Galashiels. We are trying to relocate as many of the staff as possible.”
Amid rumours that another major chain is also about to withdraw from the town centre, Galashiels Chamber of Trade joint chairman David Houston said traders were facing a race against time.
He told us: “It is sad, but not surprising given the level of competition generated by the major superstores, that a long-established business like Semi-Chem has decided to call it a day.
“It is particularly disappointing because when the town’s new transport interchange is operational when the railway re-opens in 2014, it will bring a massive footfall to the traditional town centre.
“The development will also see the bus station relocating, freeing up more car parking space in the central area.
“But you have to ask, if the trend of closures in Bank Street, Channel Street, High Street and Market Street continues, how many retailers will be left to take advantage of what I am convinced will be a sales boom?
“I can only hope that shoppers in Galashiels and from other places continue to sustain existing businesses over the next two or three years because it really is a race against time.
“In the shorter term, we are also anticipating an upturn in shoppers in the town centre when the Galashiels inner-relief road project, which has caused so much disruption, is completed this summer.”
Mr Houston said he had heard rumours that computer gaming company Gamestation was about to close its outlet at Douglas Bridge, but the manager said he was unable to comment and attempts to contact the company’s head office near Nottingham yesterday proved unsuccessful.
Mr Houston, however, has welcomed this week’s announcement that Scottish Borders Council is to begin a programme of traffic management and streetscape works in the town centre next month.
The project will initially focus on Market Square and the pedestrianised zone, outside the former post office, at the top of Channel Street.
At the former site, flowerbeds will be reshaped to create more pedestrian space, the concrete surface will be replaced with natural stone and improved lighting will be installed.
“This will improve the connectivity between the new retail developments [Tesco, Asda and the Galawater retail park] and the centre of town,” said SBC’s programme manager Euan Doyle.
At the top of Channel Street, the existing street furniture will be removed and create a usable event space for musical and other artistic performances, thus replacing Market Square in that role.
“This will allow community groups to attract footfall to the town centre,” said Mr Doyle.
Later works will include a revamp of the Cornmill Square area to create a “sympathetically designed civic space” for the enjoyment of townsfolk and visitors of the fountain, the war memorial and Bank Street gardens.