Jane Bradley: A brave new world for empty retail outlets?

WITH one in ten retail properties in Scotland lying empty, it is no surprise that high street chiefs have been looking for a viable solution to plug the gaps.

Obviously, the ideal answer would be to fill them – and quick – with new, thriving businesses. Easier said than done in the current economic climate.

Alternatives have been to use them as advertising hoardings – or in Paisley, to create a chain of “Imagine” imaginary shops in a bid to inspire people to open new stores on vacant sites.

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But looking Stateside for inspiration, I now have a new plan. Let’s create a string of robot workshops in shop windows across Scotland.

No, I haven’t lost my mind. Artist Toby Atticus Fraley filled one shop window in his home town of Pittsburgh, Pensylvania, with such a display. The fictional repair shop was never open, but always lit so passers-by could see the workshop, featuring a lonely robot who seemed always to want to escape.

Over the 17 months since the workshop was launched, he frequently changed the display around and added details that kept fans returning to see the robot’s latest developments.

And the interest has worked. For last month, the site was eventually leased to a living, breathing business – a restaurant which is due to open shortly. And the robot is set to move on to pastures new – reportedly in California, where he will hopefully entertain and inspire a new generation of would-be shoppers.

Let’s lobby him to make Scotland his next stop. I could do with a robot to brighten up my dreary walking commute past Edinburgh’s derelict shops.

• This will be the last edition of Consumer Watch in its current form. But fear not, I will still continue to fight the corner for you, the Scottish consumer, in my day job as The Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday’s consumer affairs correspondent. If you have any consumer issues you would like me to tackle in our regular news pages, contact me: [email protected] or give me a ring on 0131 620 8432.