ARBROATH’S High Street will suffer a massive blow at the end of this month when Scottish Hydro Electric close their retail outlet on the pedestrian precinct.
The shop at 247 High Street has served the community for almost 40 years, but an SSE Retail spokesperson, Sharon Miller McKenzie, said it had not be viable for some considerable time and will close on Saturday, April 28.
Three members of staff, two full-time and one part-time, are affected.
Ms McKenzie told the Arbroath Herald: “Where possible, staff will be given options to avoid compulsory redundancy through the use of voluntary redundancy and redeployment.”
She stressed that Scottish Hydro Electric has a good track record as an employer and said the company will do everything it can for affected staff.
Asked specifically about the redeployment aspect, she responded: “We have a variety of different sites throughout Tayside, including those in Dundee and Perth.”
Ms McKenzie said that closure was not a decision which had been taken lightly but the shop was no longer a viable proposition. She added: “We kept it open as long as possible but the losses are no longer sustainable.
“We tried to renegotiate the lease to the property but were unable to do that.
“We understand it is upsetting for staff but we have experienced a very difficult time in retail. It was a difficult decision, but one we had to make.”
When the shop opened in the 1970s it was a focal point for everything electrical, with a large proportion of customers’ energy bills being paid over the counter. However, with the advance of Direct Debits, that side of the business has reduced drastically.
Arbroath West and Letham councillor Alex King, one of the town’s senior representatives, said he was shocked to hear that the Hydro-Electric shop at the top of the precinct was to close at the end of April and his heart goes out to the loyal staff, who are now facing redundancy.
He continued: “This shop is a large unit which has been occupied as the Hydro-Electric showroom and local customer service base for over 40 years, since the building was first opened.
“Although it occupies a prime corner site it will be hard to find another business to take over a unit of this size and provide the same sort of service to the town.
“This will be another body blow to the struggling retail sector in Arbroath and is perhaps the precursor of a wave of further losses of shops to the town.”
Councillor King went on: “I already know of several other shops which have either already closed down, or will be closing in the near future, due to very poor trading over the Christmas period followed by a disastrous first three months of the year.
“April is the time when the next year’s rates start to become payable and is often the time when leases are due for renewal – usually in an upward direction
“Many small businesses are currently surviving by a mere thread with some shop owners now unable to take a living wage out of what has been their life’s work.
“Even a small increase in fixed costs can tip a business which is barely making a marginal profit into an irretrievable loss making situation.”
He concluded: “The growth of internet shopping, increasing fuel prices and lack of disposable income, along with a lack of confidence in the future arising from the general economic situation, are now combining to make high street retailing a very risky form of business, where the margin between survival and failure is very small.
“Perhaps those who complain about empty shops on Scotland’s high streets should remember that when they surf the internet for their next television or washing machine and realise that if the public don’t use high street shops then they will lose them!”