Scottish Grocers’ Federation chief executive Dr Pete Cheema OBE says plans are afoot to re-engineer town and city centre shopping as the country takes steps out of lockdown.
Thankfully, Scotland is gradually emerging from the coronavirus lockdown.
Town and city centres will soon begin to open up again as the country plots its road to recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
This will be not a moment too soon for the businesses based in these locations; they have suffered the most from office closures, travel restrictions and a dramatic loss in footfall.
Several key government measures continue to provide vital support to retailers – the recent extension of the business rates holiday for another 12 months was particularly welcomed by our members.
However, it remains to be seen to what extent we will ever go back to business as usual.
Retail continues to undergo massive change – John Lewis has announced that it is pulling out of Aberdeen and the move to online shopping shows no sign of slowing down.
There are already moves afoot to re-engineer our towns, cities, and the retail landscape itself.
And work is already under way on the Scottish Government’s Retail Strategy and several other ideas and initiatives are gaining support being brought forward.
One of these ideas is something called the “20-Minute Neighbourhood”.
This is deliberately aimed at bringing about a “shift from business as usual” by encouraging localism, strengthening communities and ensuring that key services (and jobs) are within easy reach of local people – ideally these services should be accessible within a 20-minute walk.
The idea, given a prominent place in the current programme for government, has been spurred on by the need to respond to the impact of the pandemic.
And it seems that significant funding – perhaps up to £55 million – will be made available in 2021/22 to make things happen.
We know that if the local shops were not there, customers would have to travel almost two miles to the next grocery outlet, that 54% of customers walk to get to the store and that customers typically visit their c-store four times every week.
Additionally, staff in convenience stores live close by and are able to get to work in about 13 minutes on average.
We know that there has been a big move towards local shopping. This idea of the “20-Minute Neighbourhood” potentially offers a way of building on this.
While this is a new idea it connects very strongly with a desire we all have to improve local services, create busy, lively communities and supporting local businesses.