high street blues

More than 200 small shops have closed across Scotland in the past year including butchers, bakers, grocers, fishmongers, newsagents, tobacconists and confectioners.

According to the research the number of these types of shops fell by 16% between 2005 and 2006.

The research by Inter-Departmental Business Register (IDBR), which is maintained by the Office for National Statistics, was published in a Scottish daily newspaper and states that the growth of supermarkets had been blamed for the decline in independent shops.

It also stated that there had been calls for a cut in red tape and more support for local businesses.

The figures showed there were 70 fewer greengrocers and bakers trading in Scotland, 50 fewer butchers and ten fewer fishmongers and newsagents.

Fiona Moriarty, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said that the closures were a reality of modern life.

"Our towns and cities have changed over recent years to accommodate different lifestyles.

"We no longer have a traditional family unit (where the mother may be able to shop) and extended working hours.

"Retailers have responded to that by providing access to their stores in a non-traditional manner, a larger format and internet shopping.

"Having said that, small retailers still have a very important role to play in the vibrancy of the high street and we are keen to ensure small businesses remain viable by catering to local demand."

Nanette Milne, a Tory MSP for North East Scotland, said in the newspaper report that the drop in local outlets selling fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, bakery products and fish in one year was "shocking".

She added: "These businesses are the heart of many small, local communities and their escalating demise is another nail in the coffin of community life."

The report co-incides with new research from Hyder Consulting which reveals that 80% of UK adults believe it is important to support the local high street, although it also showed that less than a third (32%) of people actually carried this through.

Nearly half (45%) said they did their main grocery shopping in out of town retail sites.

A further 6% of UK adults said they used online stores for their main grocery shopping and just 5% of those questioned said they used village shops.

However despite this, almost three quarters (72%) of Britons said they would like to see government and local councils doing more to incentivise businesses to locate to their local area.

"While many people believe it is important to support local shops and businesses, our study demonstrates that in reality the lure of the out of town retail site is more attractive when it comes to actually selecting where to go for the weekly grocery shop," said Stewart Scott, director, Hyder Consulting.

He added that if people did not use local shops and businesses then they would cease to exist, particularly given the pressures that many of them already faced from national retailers.