The campaign to rejuvenate our town centres has been welcomed by one of the district’s leading independent retailers.
Lauren Ferguson, who runs Sisters Boutique in Falkirk, is a fervent advocate of the importance of the high street to communities – and she isn’t afraid to speak her mind on the subject.
Last November, the success of her own business, she runs two female fashionwear stores side-by-side in Lint Riggs, was recognised when she took the Best Independent Retailer accolade at The Falkirk Herald Business Awards 2013.
This week, she welcomed the launch of the initiative by Scotland’s top weekly newspaper to bring people and life back to our town centres.
Lauren said: “I’m passionate about the importance of the heart of our towns to our communities. I’m a Falkirk Bairn who lives locally and bringing up my family in the area.
“I want to be able to shop and spend my leisure time in the area. Yes, it’s nice occasionally to visit the city but Falkirk has so much to offer – we just need to make more people realise what we have.”
She was generous in her praise of fellow retailers who are doing all they can to make the town centre a vibrant, attractive place to visit – at all hours of the day and night. But admits that more still needs to be done.
“I’m optimistic about the future. Yes, the recession has hit us hard but there are clear signs things are improving,” she added.
“There are some really good business people investing in Falkirk. What is happening at Tea Jenny’s with the deli is great, while Chris Morris’ venture in Wooer Street is also good for the area.
“There are positive things happening, now we just hope all these businesses can survive.”
The mum-of-two believes that for the town centre to survive so her children can have a place to Shop Local, Eat Local, Play Local in the future, people need to move away from their reliance on the internet, particularly for shopping.
She explained: “Yes, Sisters has a website but only because we have to have one. It’s actually frightening the number of people who live locally – some only a mile away from us – and who shop online.
“What they don’t seem to realise is that if they come into the shop they get much better customer service. We can advise them on what suits them best, if they need certain underwear to go with a garment we can pop across to Miss Forsyth to get something for them, as well as offering alternatives. You can’t get that from a website.”
Lauren has her own radical views on how the High Street can be improved and would like to see the pedestrianised zone removed from East Bridge Street up to the Cow Wynd.
“If we had one way traffic that would allow people to drive up and give a much better impression, as well as seeing what businesses are on offer at that end of the town. There have been a couple of good little independents that sadly didn’t last, probably because people didn’t know they were there.
“And if anyone wonders why I want to improve the other end of the town when I’m in the west end, it’s because I want the whole area to be vibrant so everyone can benefit.”
Welcoming current initiatives, including the ‘Free after Three’ parking and the planned improvement of heritage buildings, Lauren also wants the authorities, including Falkirk Council, to keep up the momentum.
“We can’t let things slow down. Yes the recession has given Falkirk a kicking but if we all work together then we can fight back to give ourselves a healthy future.”