An Aberdeen business chief says the city must “rebuild” its “cultural offering” to breathe new life into its ailing centre.
The Granite City has been dealt blow after blow during the Covid-19 pandemic, with dozens of businesses either closing or announcing they will not reopen.
Earlier this week the Disney store in the Bon Accord shopping centre became the latest to announce its departure from Aberdeen.
The news followed hot on the heels of the announcement John Lewis plans to close its branch on George Street – the north of Scotland’s last remaining department store.
Adrian Watson, chief executive of business improvement district Aberdeen Inspired, is one of several business leaders and council chiefs who sit on a taskforce aiming to convince the high street giant to rethink its decision.
Following the latest bad news to hit Aberdeen’s retail sector, Mr Watson suggested the city could use its popular cultural events to stop businesses leaving and entice others in.
“We need to rebuild our cultural offering and bring back globally acclaimed events such as Nuart and Granite Noir that attract people into the heart of our city,” he said.
“We need to hold onto all our existing assets in the city centre and neighbouring areas and look to attract more.”
According to Mr Watson, support from the UK and Scottish governments is also needed to protect city centres.
And he echoed calls from Aberdeen City Council co-leader Douglas Lumsden for changes to be made to business rates to help shops compete with their internet-based counterparts.
He added: “We need the government to build on the work around the ‘towns agenda’ and be more explicit about what we will do for city centres. We have long been behind a ministerial position that is committed to the rejuvenation of our city centres.
“Business rates needs to be scrapped and consideration given to a sale tax that will bring fairness and draw on these ‘online enterprises’ that seem almost immune to sharing the tax burden while our bricks and mortar businesses struggle.”
Mr Lumsden previously said: “There needs to be a fundamental change in business rates. It costs too much for businesses to have a shop presence, especially when they are trying to compete with online retailers who pay very little by comparison.”