Peterhead shop owners met last week to discuss proposals to establish a retail forum in the town.
The aim is to develop a strong partnership between businesses, the local authority and partner agencies to improve the town centre, boost footfall and attract new retail outlets.
At the invitation of Heather Barclay, Aberdeenshire Council’s town centre project officer, retailers and interested parties discussed a wide range of issues affecting business including current parking arrangements, out-of-town retail parks and dog fouling.
But top of the list of complaints across the board was anti-social behaviour which many firmly believe is preventing family trips to the town centre and hampering economic growth.
Several retailers said the ongoing issue of drink and drug-induced behaviour coupled with swearing and fighting showed little signs of abating, with customers being driven away resulting in a sharp decline in footfall.
One businessman said: “The anti-social behaviour is having a huge impact on the family culture we once enjoyed in Peterhead. Until that can be resolved I really do fear for the future of our town centre.”
Rod Foster of Police Scotland urged traders to call 101 to report anti-social activity and concerns over issues surrounding some town centre licensed premises to build up a more accurate picture for the authorities to consider and react to.
Meanwhile, on the matter of car-parking, Queen Street traders in particular slammed the withdrawal of traffic wardens by the police authorities which had effectively resulted in day-long parking by some neighbouring businesspeople and their shop staff.
One shop owner said: “Queen Street relies on passing trade and the drop-in shopper – without parking being freed up we are losing them. More and more people are taking one drive down the street and if they can’t get parked they are heading for the out-of-town stores.”
While car-parking availability was generally considered by the meeting as inadequate for a town the size of Peterhead, local businessman and councillor Alan Buchan said that plenty of spaces remained free at the town’s various car parks during the day.
He also reminded everyone that when the new council headquarters is complete it would establish more than 70 additional parking spaces for weekend shoppers in the heart of the town.
The local authority’s new car parking arrangements providing a free first hour and free parking after 3pm is also expected to be introduced in October to help boost shopper footfall centrally.
Looking ahead to future investment in the town centre, Heather Barclay said that the arrival of a new digital ambassador would be helping to develop the miPeterhead app and encouraged more businesses to join the system and promote special offers.
The council’s strategic town centres executive also highlighted the benefits of retail schemes which have been assisting shops in Fraserburgh, Banff and Macduff to get the best out of their stores.
Audrey Michie said consultancy assistance to improve various aspects of businesses could form part of a regeneration process in Peterhead and encouraged traders to think about how any future initiatives could best help them.
The next meeting of the Peterhead Retail Forum - to which all traders are invited to attend - will be on Thursday, October 30, with a venue to be confirmed early next month.