My Column

Next move is shoppings new normal

  • Date: Monday 11th May 2020
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Prior to lockdown, Debenhams was on a shaky nail.

The retailer first collapsed last April, but agreed to a company voluntary arrangement with its landlords to cut costs to save the business. This would see 50 store closures throughout 2020 and 2021.

However, as you will know this wasn’t enough and just last month Debenhams were forced to appoint administrators yet again.

Last week, the news of five stores shutting down was unexpected but looking at the facts, it should not have come as a shock to anyone.

The only Scottish store to be affected is Glasgow’s Silverburn, which will not open its doors post-pandemic.

Of course, the high street and retail industry is on hold at the moment with only essential stores remaining open, but this is a story which has little to do with the virus.

It appears that Debenhams had a disagreement with shopping centre owner Hammerson, and neither could come to arrangement which will ultimately see Debenhams pull out of five of their shopping centres across the UK.

The sad news is the loss of jobs for the 1,400 people who will not be returning to work, and during this climate, that is especially hard to deal with.

There are no winners in this spat, only losers. Debenhams is a staple high street department store, so it will be both a loss to Scotland’s economy and to those who relied on the retailer for employment.

Meanwhile shopping centres and high streets are continuing to empty due to store closures. Hammerson will now have to deal with the fall out of trying to replace the empty vacancies in their malls as well as replace the rent costs.

If you’ve been to Silverburn you will know the huge retail space Debenhams lived in. It was certainly one of the largest of its stores, with many shoppers flocking both there and its other flagship store, Marks and Spencer.

This negative news also comes after a further setback for Hammerson, with its deal to sell seven retail parks to Orion was scrapped. Looks like the private equity firm backed out of the purchase before it was fully complete.

Despite the negativity, there is good news on the horizon. Not long after the Debenhams blow, it was announced that retailer Next would be moving into the former Debenhams site.

The fashion retailer has agreed a deal with Hammerson to transform five former Debenhams beauty departments into its own beauty hall concept.

It seems Next have been on the look-out to launch its very own beauty business, which will be known as The Beauty Hall from Next.

They are set to take-over all five Hammerson venues and are continuing to look into further sites as they invest in the beauty industry.

What is exciting for Scottish beauty fans is that the Silverburn store will be included in the new concept and Scottish shoppers will be among the first to experience the new store.

Not even I can predict what the future holds for the retail sector, however seeing retailers continue to expand and invest in a time like this is encouraging.

What’s more is that the new store will be recruiting and Next have said it is ‘likely’ to offer positions to former Debenhams workers.

The question on everyone’s lips though is when will stores, such as those mentioned above, will be reopened?

I agree with the British Retail Consortium’s stance that only when retailers feel prepared that they can open and fully align with social distancing rules should they reopen their doors to customers.

Fashion or tech shopping for example is not essential, however as we begin to get back to some sort of normality these stores will have to phase in a sensible approach for returning to normal.

It needs to be safe, not only customers, but for those working in each environment – this should be the foremost priority.

I do hope that those affected from the fall-out will be quick to find new employment. With many sectors booming and therefore recruiting, hopefully those faced with the brunt of redundancy will go on to find gainful jobs in the near future.



One positive to come out of the continued lockdown is the dramatic reduction in the UK’s climate emissions. It really has given all of us a chance to experience an alternative urban ambience.

Carbon emissions are expected to fall by almost eight per cent globally in 2020 - the biggest drop in history - as a result of the pandemic.

Closer to home, pollution levels in our cities have plummeted. Hope Street in Glasgow, formerly one of Scotland’s dirtiest streets, has seen a 50 per cent drop in pollution.

The UK has a target of cutting emissions to net zero by 2050. Government advisers have urged decision makers to seek a greener way out of lockdown. Proposals include schemes to insulate homes, tree-planting, reform of the electricity networks and the roll-out of more cycle lanes.

More money could also be spent on science and innovation to reduce greenhouse emissions in the future.

Governments face a tough decision though: bail out polluting businesses, like airlines, and use that as leverage to impose environmental reforms or let them return to their carbon-intensive activities as an economic quick fix.

Interestingly, evidence has recently been published by experts who argue that government spending, on low-carbon and other environmentally beneficial activities, would provide a bigger boost to the economy than pursuing a traditional recovery route, with money poured into propping up businesses reliant on fossil fuels.

While I’m all for getting businesses up and operational as soon as possible, you can’t deny that the lockdown has presented a real opportunity for positive environmental business change.

Those within the Scottish green energy sector, who can be both innovative and nimble, have a clear opportunity off the back of the situation we are in – and good luck to them.



Reading the news of desperate customers flocking to newly re-opened KFC restaurants provided me with a bucket full of laughs.

The fast food favourite opened 55 of its restaurants for drive-thru customers earlier this week, resulting in traffic chaos on nearby roads.

It wasn’t just chicken fans who were at it though, hundreds of coffee connoisseurs flocked to re-opened Costa drive-through’s in Glasgow and Edinburgh for their caffeine fix.

It was encouraging to see that these businesses were operating responsibly, by employing social distancing and providing staff with adequate protective equipment – something that is likely to become our new normal for the foreseeable.

I love a barista coffee or a burger as much as anyone, but I think I’ll wait till the craze has passed before getting my next fast food fix. 



The critically important role that key workers, like NHS staff, play is all over the news. I was saddened to read then that 11 per cent of people have experienced racist abuse while at work for the NHS.

The issue is being brought to the forefront by charity, Show Racism the Red Card, which launched a video campaign on YouTube focussing on frontline NHS staff recounting their experience of racial discrimination at work.

The campaign has been supported by Scotland skipper and Liverpool player, Andy Robertson, who joined a host of big-name sport stars offering up their support.

This Thursday, I will be clapping for all our hard working carers and giving extra thoughts to our black, Asian and minority ethnic NHS workforce, who continue to experience racial discrimination.








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