Investors, Developers & Landlords
Plans to 'rebrand' Blair
Moves to ''rebrand'' Blairgowrie to capitalise on a surge of investment in the town are being backed by the business community.
Roy Sim, a former director of Perthshire Chamber of Commerce and a past president of Blairgowrie Merchants Association, said the town is enjoying a renaissance, which had focused minds on how to make the most of recent developments.
''With Perth achieving city status Blairgowrie is now Perthshire's largest town with a population approaching some 10,000,'' said Mr Sim.
''At present Blairgowrie is quite unique with very few empty shops - those that are were casualties of the big chains such as Woolworths and were not our privately-owned businesses.
''The potential of Blairgowrie is now being seen with the pub giant Wetherspoon investing some £1.2 million in the old Woolworths it has just bought in the town centre and we have just leased our former antiques showroom to Charlie Shentall, who has invested a six-figure sum in developing The Lairds House retail and dining experience.''
He added: ''What we have to do is rebrand the town and give it an image to promote it as a destination for eating, shopping, sport and culture. ''Eating out is now a social event and we have excellent restaurants to choose from along with some excellent cafes. Commercial regeneration puts quality shopping into the town, it creates employment, the residents' money is then recycled and it keeps them from shopping elsewhere.'' Mr Sim said Blairgowrie is home to many success stories including Davidsons the Chemists - now the largest chain of independently-owned chemist shops in Scotland - which has its head office in the town. Mr Sim said he has businesses' support to examine ways of rebranding
He said a lottery-funded report by tourism consultant Professor Terry Stevens had contended that the area could become an international destination. Among the natural assets of the town is the River Ericht, which has affected Blairgowrie's development since the 17th century. Mr Sim said it is an ideal time to be ambitious about the future, but with a focused leadership.
He said: ''Blairgowrie was in the past a market town servicing its agricultural hinterland, sporting visitors and of course the skiing industry. The town was held in high regard for the quality businesses, shops, hotels and restaurants, however over the past 20 years or so business has changed.''
He added: ''What has also been missing over that period is leadership and that was previously found in our town council. ''Then we had 12 councillors including our provost who looked after the town's welfare and development. Then they were unpaid and there were no politics involved.''
Mr Sim said the changes away from a town council had left a ''vacuum in leadership'' though he felt that if businesses became involved in driving the rebranding it could herald an exciting future.
Blairgowrie Plans to become new hotspot
Moves are being made to maintain and preserve the character of Blairgowrie’s shopping heart.
Conservation expert Dr. Lindsay Lennie was in the town yesterday to survey local shopfronts and identify anything of particular interest. She was in Blairgowrie at the invitation of the local business community and her survey is seen as a starting point to carrying out improvement schemes. “What we have to do as businesses is to take responsibility for the town and myself and a number of others are keen to maintain standards and take things forward.” said businessman Roy Sim, a former director of Perthshire Chamber of Commerce and a past president of Blairgowrie Merchants Association.
“We need to look to maintain the heritage of the town. We invited Dr Lennie to Blairgowrie so that when we approach the council or Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust we have something credible to speak about. “The ultimate aim is to bring more people to visit Blairgowrie and shop in the town or use local businesses.
“We have to keep our image up or improve it to bring people into the area.”
Consultant Dr.Lennie of Historic Shop Conservation is in no doubt of the importance maintaining traditional shopfronts can have in marking out one location from another. “All too often, historic shops are removed and replaced with modern materials, some of which are incompatible with traditional buildings,” she said. “This approach can also result in a homgenisation of town centres and can detract from the individuality of towns. “In many cases, traditional shops can be repaired and renovated. This is a sustainable approach and one which can also have benefits for the retail business occupying the property. A quality period shopfront is a potential asset to any business.”
Sam Mayall, from The Cookshop in Blairgowrie, commented: “First impressions count. This is what makes people traveling through a town want to stop and shop and effectively this is what we are trying to do,” Mr Sim said that looking at the shopfronts was just one strand to a number of efforts being put in to improve Blairgowrie. He said that thanks to the efforts of Blair in Bloom, the town was already putting on a colourful welcome to visitors to the area. It was also a good time to attempt to market Blairgowrie as with Perth achieving city status, it is now Perthshire’s largest town, with a population approaching 10,000.
There were very few empty shops in Blairgowrie, he said, and it was also enjoying significant investments including a £1.2 million show of faith by pub giants Wetherspoon, who have converted the old Woolworths store in the town centre.
Other positive developments include the recent opening of The Laird’s House, which involved local businessman Charlie Shentall investing a six figure sum in developing a retail and dining experience on Lower Mill Street. Mr Sim said these were positive developments, which the business community should seize as a starting point for further improvements. “This confirms there is potential in the town and it is up to us as the local businesses to restore Blairgowrie to it’s former glory and prosperity. “What we have to do is rebrand the town and give it an image to promote it as a destination for eating, shopping and culture.”
The Courier & Advertiser, Tuesday July 24th, 2012, (By Richard Burdge)
Local Business Impresses
THE IMPORTANCE of local businesses to the heart of perthshire’s economy was stressed during a visit to Blairgowrie yesterday by the body which champions their role.
Gillian MacEwan, Chairwoman of the Perth and Kinross branch of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), was in the town to meet with the local business community. She was impressed by the support that local business is giving to initiatives aimed at driving visitor numbers up. With few empty shops and a £1 million plus investment by pub chain JD Wetherspoon in the former Woolworth’s building, confidence is high in the town.
The FSB is the UK’s largest campaigning pressure group promoting and protecting the interests of the self-employed and owners of small firms. “Small businesses are the lifeblood of the Scottish economy and the FSB fully supports the initiatives shown by Blairgowrie to attract visitors and tourism and display an optimism that is rare to see in the Scottish retail sector at present.” Mrs MacEwan said.
Businessman Roy Sim introduced her to various people in the town, which is now Perthshire’s largest since Perth became a city. He explained some of their aims as a town, in particular getting more people to stop in the town and use local businesses. “Towns such as Blairgowrie offer a wide variety of individual shops and businesses, more often than not run by the owner,” Mr Sim said.
“Businesses in Blairgowrie are working hard to attract visitors from outwith the area who would not normally think of visiting here. “Shopkeepers and small businesses have the problem their voice is often not listened to and this is why we need the support of the FSB as it can take up the issues with the politicians or council on our behalf and be heard.” Among those the FSB representative met was Alan Learmonth, of Learmonth Wealth Management, who opened his business in Blairgowrie almost two years ago, helping individuals with financial planning. Ms MacEwan said: “Alan explained hard work has been the fundamental factor contributing to the success of his business. However he described the business community as forward thinking in their challenge to create a new image for this important market town and that it’s a town wanting to do business.”
The Courier & Advertiser, Thursday August 2nd, 2012, (By Richard Burdge)