Scotland’s largest city is witnessing a retail revival. Rising investment and business interest indicate that Glasgow appears to bucking the national trend, potentially creating thousands of jobs.
However, while retail occupancy rates are higher than the national average, the city’s business and political leaders need to develop a global strategy to compete with other UK cities, such as London and Manchester, as well as Europe and beyond.
A number of major retail projects are under way or being considered, including a further £300 million expansion to Buchanan Galleries, a 45,000sq ft expansion of Glasgow Fort shopping park and the £200m new mixed-use development proposals at Braehead Shopping Centre.
New brands that have already arrived include US clothing giants Forever 21 and Vans, and Danish toy manufacturer Lego.
Hard work starting to bear fruit
Glasgow is the main shopping hub in the UK, outside of London. While that brings great opportunities, it has also meant great challenges. UK high streets have been devastated by economic uncertainty and established big-hitters in retail falling into administration. This could have caused untold problems for Glasgow, but the city has shown exemplary resilience and the hard work is starting to bear fruit.
The secret to this has been innovation. Retailers have worked in partnership with political and business leaders, with the common goal of surviving in a difficult climate, without ignoring the potential for long-term growth when the good times return. This has been matched, in some cases, with significant incentives such as the Scottish Government-backed tax incremental financing.
What we’re now seeing is a wave of new developments and expansions. Major international retailers are coming to Glasgow and expressing real confidence. While this should be broadly welcomed, it doesn’t make the city immune to future growth obstacles. Pockets of the city still require significant investment and innovative approaches. The momentum is there. What is now needed is stronger collaboration, with political and business leaders working together to act globally and attract further big brands and investors to the city in the years ahead.
• Lorraine Macphail is head of Property and Construction Scotland at Grant Thornton UK LLP