Getting the Right Change – retail strategy for Scotland

This strategy contains current initiatives and future actions to help fulfil our vision for the retail sector in a fair, sustainable way. By delivering on its actions we aim for successful, profitable retail businesses, creation of new, better jobs and to become an exemplar for inclusive growth.

Chapter 4 - Place

4.1 Our Aim

To strengthen the vital contribution that retailers make to the economic and social success of our local communities.

4.2 Opportunity for Change

The Place Principle is one where people, location and resources combine to create a sense of identity and purpose, and is at the heart of addressing the needs and realising the full potential of communities.[13] Our place-based approach recognises that different locations have distinct needs and that retail, which is a key component of all local communities across Scotland, continues to adapt and evolve to take into account the physical, social and economic elements of places. This includes our islands and remote and rural communities, as well as in urban and suburban centres.

The way in which we planned our towns, cities and neighbourhoods of the past has impacted on retail trends and it is the way we plan for cities and towns of the future that will contribute to a successful and sustained recovery of the retail sector.

Creating communities and places people want to visit, live and shop in will be vital to our Covid recovery – not only for retail, but for culture, hospitality and tourism too. Places with a large number of vacant units can attract anti-social behaviour, making areas less attractive and diminishing the links between stores and amenities. Where there are actions to support a strong local retail and cultural destination, there will be opportunities for other businesses, such as hospitality and tourism, to capitalise on increased footfall. Attractive and flourishing places where people can come together are vibrant, social, creative, interesting and resilient. Strengthening the retail experience can therefore enrich communities while delivering economic benefits.

20 minute neighbourhoods are places where people live within 20 minutes of walking, wheeling, cycling or using public transport to reach key amenities like shops, services and green spaces.

As we move away from the traditional model of large retail stores attracting smaller businesses to an area or shopping centre, using anchor institutions as a way of attracting footfall can help us realise our ambitions for 20 minute neighbourhoods.

Anchor institutions can include public or third sector institutions such as colleges, health centres and arts organisations, as well as private enterprises. They are defined more by their relationship to a place than by sector – large organisations with deep roots in a community that provide support to that community by various means such as employment, use of land, skills, health and procurement.

The Community Wealth Building model of economic development aims to ensure that these anchors effectively use their power as economic agents to support their local economies through strategic decisions on spending, investment, workforce and the use of land and property assets. Such decisions can result in social and community gains which may result in increasing footfall in particular locations through repurposing vacant property to support pop-up retail businesses and entrepreneurs. This can be particularly effective where anchors have large workforces, such as hospitals and universities.

Large and small retail businesses can individually and collectively exert economic influence by adopting strategies that will ensure there is wealth retention within the local area and by improving economic, social, and environmental priorities, generating what is commonly referred to as social value. Recruiting employees from lower income areas, committing to paying the real Living Wage, and procuring locally are all examples of actions that retail businesses can take to stimulate their local economy and positively impact on the prospects and incomes of local people. It is also important that we encourage new businesses, who wish to be key economic agents in localities by reducing barriers to securing their first physical outlet, with pop-up or demonstrator stores an excellent way of engaging with local places and communities.

Through developing a place-based approach, local people and businesses have a genuine stake in producing, owning and enjoying the wealth they create and in doing so, move us closer to the more just, equitable and sustainable society we want to see in all of Scotland.

Go Local – Helping convenience stores support local Scottish producers

Go Local is a project that aims to support convenience stores throughout Scotland provide dedicated, long-term display space for locally sourced Scottish products, with a bias towards fresh and healthy produce.

Operated by the Scottish Grocers Federation, funded by the Scottish Government and working in partnership with Scotland Food and Drink, a pilot project has been established across ten village, neighbourhood, market town and local supermarket convenience stores ranging from 1,200 sq ft to 6,000 sq ft with varying demographics. Each of the participating stores has received grant funding to maximise the range of Scottish products they offer to customers. This in turn enables the stores to support local producers and give these businesses a vital route to market to help with their recovery and regrowth from Covid-19.

Stores participating in the pilot have provided data that allows tracking at product level detail. The results have been impressive, with an average local multiplier increase of £221,000 per store, £157,000 of which is Go Local compliant products. The output from the pilot has seen the program extended, with a further 28 stores spread across mainland Scotland, the Outer Hebrides and Shetland joining in the second phase, which runs until June 2022. A third phase of the programme launched for applications in February 2022. This will see at least 21 more stores taking part in 2022-23.

4.3 What We’re Doing

Scotland has the core components required to generate the recovery of the retail sector in our communities and meet the challenges of developing sustainable practices across the sector. Retailers are active in all our places, delivering significant employment to their communities and utilising extensive supply networks that nurture local economic benefits.

Building strength in and empowering local economies and communities is key to our collective recovery and has the potential to unlock local benefits quickly. Nurturing a mix of business types, including sustainable business models, co-operatives, employee-owned businesses and smaller or independent stores, will help locations to be more vibrant and attract footfall. Making it easier for stores to source goods from local suppliers will build wealth in communities and reduce the carbon footprint of goods bought in stores.

Helping businesses set up in vacant units creates opportunities for entrepreneurship and helps to support thriving retail localities. Underpinned by the National Planning Framework (NPF), the Place Principle is key to this work, as are the Community Wealth Building, Town Centre First, and 20 minute neighbourhoods approaches.

NPF4 will provide updated planning policy on retail, recognising its role in the economy and communities, linked to 20 minute neighbourhoods. We have set out in the draft NPF4 support for development in town centres and neighbourhoods that will help us transition away from car-dependent developments and towards those that enable walking, cycling, wheeling and public transport accessibility, in line with our second National Transport Strategy Sustainable Travel Hierarchy. This recognises the need for our day-to-day retail services and facilities (including healthier food outlets, markets, pubs, restaurants, cafés and banks), to be accessed easily and affordably.

To assess how town centres would recover from the impact of Covid-19 and identify what further steps should be considered to make towns fit for all in Scotland, the Town Centre Review Group was tasked with reviewing the progress and scope of the 2013 Town Centre Action Plan. The resulting report, A New Future for Scotland’s Town Centres was published in February 2021. The Review Group was also asked to consider how to adopt the Programme for Government’s commitment for 20 minute neighbourhoods for our cities, towns, rural and island communities. One of the key recommendations arising from the report relates to the strength of the Town Centre First Principle in enabling towns to thrive, which asks that ‘government, local authorities, the wider public sector, businesses and communities put the health of town centres at the heart of decision making’.

In responding to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on city centres, a City Centre Task Force was convened which is working to identify and support innovative actions to assist city centres through their economic recovery. As retail is a major contributor to the economies of Scotland’s cities, so the Task Force’s work will be crucial in supporting a thriving retail sector. In strengthening our retail offer we should see the benefits spill over to other sectors. With Covid-19 recovery plans in place for both the tourism and food and drink sectors, healthy and growing retail businesses should make a positive contribution to the recovery of both industries.

Business Improvement Districts are a partnership between local businesses, engaging with their local authority, with the aim of transforming their area by creating a better business environment and promoting economic growth. The benefits and impacts realised enable local businesses to decide and direct local improvements, contribute to the local economy, and support town centres meet the needs of businesses, residents, visitors, and other partner organisations.

Sitting alongside Business Improvement Districts is the multi-year Scotland Loves Local programme, which supports and promotes local places, businesses, partnerships, enterprises and communities. It has delivered much-welcomed support to local retailers across Scotland.

As a government, we have:

  • established a City Centre Recovery Task Force in partnership with Scotland’s seven cities, kick-started by a £2 million City Centre Recovery Fund which has been boosted with a further £6 million
  • provided £80 million for a Covid Economic Recovery Fund, giving local authorities flexibility to target support through existing schemes, such as Scotland Loves Local, Business Improvement Districts or place-based investment programmes or through individual local authority grant schemes
  • launched a £10 million Scotland Loves Local Programme including a Scotland Loves Local national marketing campaign and gift card scheme. Up to £2 million has been made available in 2021-22, supporting up to 100 organisations to bring new creative projects and activity to towns and neighbourhoods.
  • launched our Place-Based Investment Programme, backed with £325 million over the next five years, to provide financial support and a focus for government, local authority and other sectors to facilitate, coordinate and deliver place-based collaboration and action
  • commenced the roll-out our a new £50 million, five-year low carbon Vacant & Derelict Land Investment Programme, supporting local approaches to unblock the reuse of persistent vacant and derelict land to deliver new green infrastructure, supporting a just transition to net zero
  • committed to bringing forward Community Wealth Building legislation in this Parliament

Scotland Loves Local

Retailers across the country have benefited from the multi-media marketing campaign as well as direct financial support. In Dunbartonshire, for example, hundreds of businesses have benefited from the drive for people to ‘love local’.

Dunbartonshire Chamber of Commerce and Milngavie Improvement District have used the branding extensively. The Chamber – with projects across Alexandria and the Vale of Leven – and Milngavie Improvement District have been key drivers of the Scotland Loves Local campaign.

Dunbartonshire Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Damon Scott said: “The Loves Local campaign has been helping hundreds of Dunbartonshire businesses by encouraging local people to shop local, think local and support our local enterprises. In practical terms each place now has a website with a business directory supported by social media, PR and advertising. A range of branded materials and 100,000 Loves Local flyers have been distributed door-to-door and in the town centres, this activity has helped to further promote some of the wonderful local businesses we have registered with us.”

The Scotland Loves Local gift card – the first of its kind on a national scale in Scotland – is now available to consumers with more information on both the Scotland Loves Local programme and gift card at Scotland Loves Local.

4.4 What We Will Do

To ensure future success, retail businesses need to commit to:

  • utilising local retailers and providers wherever possible
  • promoting support for local retail business and local goods and produce where possible to reduce retail’s carbon footprint and build wealth into local communities
  • building new operations or stores with sustainability as a key consideration
  • working with businesses and communities to help promote ‘localism’ as part of a Community Wealth Building approach including via the Scotland Loves Local programme and Business and Community Improvement Districts

We will:

  • support the matching activity (such as the GoLocal programme) that enables local vendors and suppliers to connect more easily, saving transport and financial costs
  • support retailers to consider local sourcing and support for local businesses, including through the Scotland Loves Local programme, alongside work with Scotland Food & Drink and the Scottish Grocers’ Federation
  • encourage retail businesses through community planning partnerships to work with local communities and Local Authorities to develop and promote a retail offer appropriate to their needs, building on the wider identity, cultural heritage, skills base and anchor institutions within an area
  • work with retail stakeholders to support delivery of our joint response with Cosla to the Town Centre Action Plan Review
  • work with retail stakeholders to deliver work emerging from the City Centre Recovery Task Force, including promoting city centres as retail and cultural destinations, and repurposing vacant units
  • support and promote place-based and creative responses to repurposing vacant retail units, including showcasing demonstrators
  • ensure that retailers can participate in the consultation on whether new permitted development rights and/or changes to the use classes order could support the resilience and recovery of Scotland’s retail industry
  • consider how we can work with public and private enterprise to investigate the potential viability of the Clyde Future Fashion Park



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