Bosses believe a charity-link up could be key to helping the “battered” Bon Accord Centre bounce back from some crushing shop closures.
The shopping centre has lost lost the likes of John Lewis, Dorothy Perkins, Top Shop and the Disney store during lockdown.
Now bosses have teamed with north-east children’s charity Charlie House to open up a new indoor market for about 30 independent traders – and they hope the diverse offering will boost footfall.
Curated Aberdeen will open tomorrow in the space previously occupied by River Island on the ground floor.
Small local firms ranging from craft beer companies and silversmiths to artisan food producers and skateboard designers have all been preparing their stalls today.
New hopes for Bon Accord Centre
North East MSP Liam Kerr recently said the Bon Accord Centre had been “absolutely battered” by the pandemic.
But Craig Stevenson, manager of the mall, is keen to look towards the future rather than dwell on the bruising year.
And he hopes Curated Aberdeen will help to bring people flooding back for the high street experience.
Mr Stevenson said: “Retail is undoubtedly going through a very tough time, big names have left the high street and we are going to see a lot of change in the next few years.
“Those changes will present opportunities for new businesses, including independent businesses, to take advantage of some gaps in the market.
“Retail is going to evolve, customers expectations are constantly changing and what they want to see in a city centre does move on.
“Shopping centres in city centres need to evolve with that, and provide customers with what they want to see.
“This is a great opportunity for the Bon Accord Centre, we need to keep looking forward.”
‘People have missed the city centre’
Mr Stevenson has high hopes for the venture following the success of a temporary Christmas market in the space last winter.
He added: “We always hoped to be able to build on that, and this partnership with Charlie House offers the chance to bring some of the best products in the area into the centre.
“Looking at it all being set up makes you proud to be part of the area, and we are proud to give these small businesses a chance to show off what they have.
“I think the city centre is definitely now opening up, people have missed it.”
The market is to be based in the centre for the long term, with stallholders regularly changing.
It will open at 10am on Friday. The first 50 shoppers will receive a special goodie bag with the opportunity to find a “golden ticket” to claim a cuddly Charlie House soft toy.
Shopping centre bond has kept charity afloat
Communications director for Charlie House, Sarah Bremner, says the partnership with the Bon Accord Centre has been “instrumental” in ensuring the charity maintained income during the last year.
She added: “Stallholder fees will be donated to us from the market, ensuring a constant source of income, which is what we need.
“We have to hope shoppers will come to enable it to be a success.”
All funds raised from Curated Aberdeen will go towards the charity’s Big Build Appeal, to raise the millions needed to create a new family centre in Aberdeen.
There will be a 3D model of the proposed specialist support centre, to be built at Woodend Hospital, in the market so that shoppers can see what their support is going towards.
‘This is a godsend’
Alan and Kim McConnachie run the From Scotland stall at the market, which they describe as a “godsend” for small businesses like theirs.
Before the pandemic, the pair were a regular fixture selling various craft drinks at events like Taste of Grampian and the north-east’s agricultural shows.
Mr McConnachie said: “Since lockdown, there’s been nothing, there has been nowhere to actually sell stuff.
“We are not a supermarket, we ended up having to sit and twiddle our thumbs for quite some time.
“We only sell through the likes of these events and markets, so this idea is a godsend for us.”
‘Buttery skateboard’ among items on sale
One of the more unusual items on sale when Curated Aberdeen opens tomorrow will be a skateboard emblazoned with the image of a buttery.
Gary Kemp runs Doric Skateboards, and designs boards, clothes and other accessories with a distinctive north-east flavour.
Mr Kemp has a loyal following and is hopeful some of his regulars will pop along.
The 44-year-old said: “I am lucky that I have been doing this for four years and have created a customer base.
“When I come to these events, they tend to come along.
“I was here for the pop-up market at Christmas and it was brilliant, so I hope this is the same.”
You can read more about Gary here, as he this week made an effort to tackle the “facade of success” on social media.
And there is more on the Bon Accord Centre below –