Councillor Steven Purcell, the Leader of Glasgow City Council, has launched Glasgow's Style Mile, a two year plan to expand and strengthen the role of the city centre as the UK's premier shopping destination outside the West End of London.
As part of a collaborative approach key retailers and shopping centre owners are working with the Council, Glasgow Chamber of Commerce and Glasgow City Marketing Bureau to strengthen and develop the city centre's position with an action plan to attract more shoppers into the centre and enhance their shopping experience while there.
An extension of the hugely successful Glasgow: Scotland with style city brand, the Style Mile, which uses the same distinctive back and gold colouring, encompasses a range of measures including, a free handbag/pocket-sized guide to the Style Mile, new signage and maps in key locations for easy navigation around the city centre. The new branding will promote the experience of being in the city centre retail core.
During August and September the city's main shopping streets will be brought to life with weird and wonderful characters courtesy of Mischief La Bas, Scotland's leading street theatre company, who will display their unique brand of performance, while promoting various events to be held in the city.
Community Enforcement Officers, best known for keeping Glasgow clean and safe, are also expanding their role to become city centre ambassadors, having all received customer service training and tuition on Glasgow's popular visitor attractions and shopping hotspots.
Easily identifiable by their new uniforms incorporating a gold information 'i' logo, the officers employed by Glasgow Community and Safety Services, can assist tourists and citizens alike explaining what Glasgow has to offer, make recommendations and help people find their way around the city.
The Style Mile, which takes in retailers and businesses surrounding Glasgow's retail core (Sauchiehall Street, Buchanan Street and Argyle Street) including Buchanan Galleries, St. Enoch Centre and Princes Square, was part of the original plan to develop a Business Improvement District. The ballot result, which narrowly missed reaching the required threshold to obtain BID status, demonstrated that there was support and willingness from retailers to forge ahead with plans to keep the city centre's competitive edge.
With a range of public and private sector organisations that have a vested interest in the Style Mile's success, a City Centre Initiative Manager, has been appointed to coordinate efforts and oversee implementation of the Style Mile, City Centre Action Plan and related programmes. The launch comes at a time where both businesses and shoppers are feeling the effects of the economic downturn but Style Mile partners know that they must take a proactive stance to work together to draw people and new retailers into the city centre.
The Council has pledged to spend around £4 million, from its Better Glasgow Fund, over the next two years making physical improvements to the public realm and lighting aspects thus ensuring the city centre environment is more attractive for potential retailers and shoppers.
Vacant shop units in the area are also getting a Style Mile makeover with a deal being struck to showcase images in the shop windows by prominent artists, while new tenants are sought. This has already been carried out to some degree with iconic Glasgow images adorning the likes of the former Woolworths shop on Argyle Street and the old Odeon cinema building on Renfield Street. Style Mile partners are also working on an inward investment strategy, similar to the successful International Financial Services District (IFSD) approach, to entice businesses to locate in Glasgow's commercial district.
Councillor Purcell, who is also Chair of Glasgow City Marketing Bureau, said: "It is clear that these are difficult times for everybody in retail throughout the UK, However, Glasgow is well placed to withstand the economic pressures of the global recession, with committed public and private sector investment in this sector. "The city centre is Glasgow's shop window and commercial heart. It is the drive and commitment of the Style Mile partners that will ensure the city retains its position as the top UK retail destination outside the West End of London and as a provider of jobs and income for Glasgow."
Speaking on behalf of the main city centre retailers, Lesley Ballantyne, Managing Director of John Lewis Partnership and chair of the Style Mile Steering Group, said: "Real collaboration is taking place between retailers, Glasgow City Council and other interested parties to ensure that we do everything we can to maintain our position as a premier shopping destination. It is particularly important during tougher economic times that we work together to give local shoppers and visitors an even better experience.
"The City Centre Ambassadors are really well placed to let visitors know about what is on offer in our city and the city centre retail guide showcases the best of retail and leisure, from big department stores like John Lewis to independent retailers, all within a square mile of our stylish city."
Glasgow Chamber of Commerce chief executive, Stuart Patrick, said: "The city centre has been the star in the tale of Glasgow's prosperity. It has put the spotlight firmly on generating jobs and it's where all the action is on creating economic output.
"Style Mile will be a strong new character added to the script, one that will boost our ratings. This new character is the latest offspring of a long-running affair between the city's public and private sectors, one that has developed over a long period - as all good relationships do - and one that can add a new upbeat episode to Glasgow's retail story."