South Scotland SNP MSP Joan McAlpine today (Wednesday) met with senior managers from retailer Next in the Scottish Parliament to discuss their plans for Dumfries.
The meeting was arranged by Ms McAlpine after she wrote to Next to raise concerns around their proposed relocation from the Loreburne Centre to an out of town retail park.
Commenting following the meeting, Ms McAlpine said:
“I made the case for staying in the town centre and explained the exciting local plans to encourage more people to live and work in Dumfries town centre through community-led housing projects.
“I asked Next if they would reconsider their decision to relocate if there was more flexibility in their lease. As things stand, Next need to make a lease decision for the next ten years - and due to the sales decline they’re experiencing they say simply cannot do that.”
Ms McAlpine added: “I will be writing to the landlords at Loreburne to ask for their flexibility in the Next contract in terms of rent and surcharges - and for consideration of extended opening hours to help the town centre store develop its customer base.”
Regional Estates Manager Peter Gee and Jim Gibbons, West of Scotland Area Manager, gave a presentation about the proposals to relocate to Cuckoo Bridge. The plans include a combination of fashion and homewares alongside an integrated Costa coffee shop. The managers said this could lead to a boost in jobs with an increase from 36 to 75 employees.
Ms McAlpine said:
“On the face of it, the proposal from Next looks attractive. However, if Next relocate to the retail park there will inevitably be a decreased footfall in the town centre - and with fewer people using other shops we could potentially see more closures and job losses.
“Clearly there is a balance to be struck here. People are shopping in new ways and we have to do everything we can to support the town centre for it to have a viable future.
“We can see from the success of supermarket convenience outlets that people want choice in how they shop and that is why Next are working hard to find jobs that work in the town.”