Dumfries & Galloway

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In my recent revisit to retailers in Kirkcudbright it was pleasing to see that many had taken on board recommendations made to them following  my original one-to-one visits.

Internal changes implemented  within many of the shops was identified as helping to materially improve the way customers “shopped the shop” and contributed towards a more active retail environment during what had not been the best of trading years.

Grant assistance from Dumfries  &  Galloway Council had also enabled a number of the businesses to upgrade their shopfront presentation and the examples show some after (on the left) and before (on the right) images of a small selection of the businesses visited.

Whilst some changes are quite subtle (such  the graphics in the window at Belfry Cafe) and the simple repaint at Wm Law other retailers such as Kennedy’s and Tollbooth Gifts have delivered more  dynamic change and materially improved their impact in the town.

With the majority of shops in Kirkcudbright occupied the town presented a varied and active retail environment and, like so many of the towns in Dumfries & Galloway,  one well worth visiting.

It cannot be easy to see your business devastated by flood water,  and undoubtedly heartbreaking to see the business you have worked so hard to develop  washed away through no fault of your own.

With an understandable desire to get the business back into operation as quickly as possible there is often limited time available to consider whether or not changes to the internal layout of the shop might deliver new business opportunities.

But if you are starting again with a relatively blank canvas do not rush  to reinstate what was there before. An opportunity exists to address layout issues that might have previously impacted negatively on the way customers  ‘shopped the shop’ . Careful placement of replacement shelving might help alter the way  customers circulate; identifying and maximising the impact of new selling hot-spots can help generate additional sales and improving merchandising techniques is easier when you are having to stock the shelves from scratch.

It might even be practical to relocate the counter, just because things have always been in a certain position does not mean that they are in the best position for your business in the future.

Identifying new opportunities, on top of everything else required to get the business up and running again, might deliver some challenges, but it is time that could be well spent.

We would be only too happy to discuss with you how our extensive expertise could help ensure that opportunities are not missed and help identify the silver lining available for your business in the future

During my recent return to Langholm, it was pleasing to see the progress made by the shops visited during the initial phase of the Let’s Talk Shop support programme.

Langhol, The Shop Dioctor, Lets Talk Shop, Retail Revitalisation, Retail SurvivalMost significant was that achieved by Cut The Mustard Gallery who, having relocated to the shop next door since my original visit, have undoubtedly transformed their business and its impact on the High Street.

Where the original premises had been relatively confined and IMG_6266limited in display potential, the new gallery provides excellent space from which to materially develop their business opportunities. The gallery also adds new dimension to the existing craft focus within the town, one that itself helps  to draw additional footfall to the town. Relocation obviously came at considerable cost but, thanks to a very supportive and forward-looking landlord (who also provides valuable assistance to other retailers in the town who occupy shops owned by him), the transformation was achieved.
IMG_6161When originally visited, the owners of Sticks ‘n’ Stuff received advice as to how to set out their recently purchased shop premises. At the time, the shop was an empty shell and in need of considerable refurbishment. Now completely refurbished, the shop complements others in the town. It provides walking sticks made on the premises as well as all the components required to make your own alongside a range of collectible items.
Abbotts Chocolate Shop and Blue Moon Crafts have also made IMG_6218significant changes to help to engage customer interest more effectively.

At Langholm Gallery the simple removal of the wooden screening immediately behind the window has noticeably improved the visual impact of the window display itself and made the shop interior a far brighter environment in which to shop and work.

IMG_3040One of the recommendations made following my visit to The Old School, Dumfries earlier in the year was the need to enhance awareness of activities being undertaken inside the building.

Located slightly away from the town centre, the premises themselves delivered little indication that they provided accommodation to an interesting variety of small businesses.

It was pleasing to receive today the following comment and photographs from  Rachel Speedie of The Art Room, one of the businesses operating in The Old School building.  Rachel is helping to coordinate improvements to business vitality within the building.

I just wanted to show yOLd Shool Dumfries; Retail Revitalisation, The Shop Doctor; Let's Talk Shop; Retail Survival;  customer journey; visual merchandisingou what got installed today at The Old School in Dumfries,  apparently they can be seen from Brooke Street, but also DGOne & the Lidl traffic lights too!  

So THANK YOU!! None of this would have been possible without you…Rachel”

hThe Shop Doctor; Let's Talk ShopThe entrance to the premises are to the left-hand side of the building, immediately  off the access road to the customer car park.

Signage has also been installed on this facing of the building, further developing the opportunity to inform a wider audience about the presence of this small oasis of business activity.

Other businesses involved are: Blusha, Make-Up and Hair Specialist;  NonaLou’s Tea room, Cafe and Coffee Shop; Dumfries School of Dance; B Beautiful by Beth and Brighteye Design & Branding.

It is easy to pass through Thornhill without full appreciation of the selection of retailing gems operating from this attractive small town close to Drumlanrig Castle.

With free parking, public toilets, tearooms,  cafes and hotels the number of shops may be relatively small, but the service provided and variety of products sold is large.

Lets Talk Shop; Retail RevitalisationFrom the  intriguing setting  of Thomas Tosh,   a cafe-gallery-retailer-venue based in the historic Old Parish Hall building in East Morton Street to the fashion delights at Voila and  101 Boutique time spent in Thornhill can certainly enhance the shopping experience.

IMG_5934Helping satisfy those seeking interior design and home accessories BQA Gifts, operated by The Buccleuch and Queensberry Arms Hotel, provides a wealth of intriguing items for the home and A1 Curtain Design deliver the skills and materials to compliment any home.

Hillhouse and Hunter have retained the  traditional setting of the original business within their family run hardware store and, at the end of West Morton Street, Antiques at Zitan dislay original  Chinese elegance for the home.

Of the ten businesses originally advised under the Let’s Talk Shop Support Programme 8 are still  very much in business, one is closing down due to retirement ( the owner is now 84 ) and another, The Happy Potter Ceramic Cafe, is now  Latte Da Tearoom.

All in all Thornhill sustains an intriguing mix of retail opportunity highly reliant on attracting customers seeking the service, quality and setting available. In addition on-line accessibility of many of the businesses concerned adds further dimension to individual business opportunities helping to sustain the businesses in the longer term.

shops; dalbeattie; retail revitalisation; retail survival; Shop Doctor,  Lets Talk Shop; In a recent follow up visit to Dalbeattie retailers who participated in the original Let’s Talk Shop Support Programme it was pleasing that many of them were feeling considerably more positive about their trading vitality.

Whilst there had been some shop closures in the town it is likely that it was not the economic climate alone that had contributed to their demise. Other businesses had invested and reports from those who had implemented improvements following the initial recommendations were very positive.

Whilst many of the participating retailers had taken advantage of the Let’s Talk Shop grants scheme to help introduce recommendations many were now waiting for implementation of the Shop Front Improvements Scheme to enable more robust external improvements to be undertaken.

One major improvement to the gateway impact of the town was the investment being undertaken at the Pheasant Hotel.

The dilapidated condition of the premises at the time of the original visit reflected poorly on the town and it is hoped that the major investment underway to create the Birch Tree Inn, Restaurant, Bar and Hotel will materially improve the arrival impact  whilst increasing the number of bed spaces available, a positive step forward for tourism.

Shop Doctor  Lets Talk Shop Dumfries Galloway

Excellent street sculpture elements within the enhanced public realm in Lockerbie,  a great talking point.


Of the retailers originally visited it is pleasing that all but one are still providing great service to the local and visitor community although the traditional haberdashery shop Wightmans is now an Opticians.

In addition the co-operative Project Art has recently relocated its displays into Elegance making way for a new venture in the double fronted premises being vacated by them by opposite the Town Hall. Indications of a new, and very appropriate, business venture opening soon.

Two of the businesses have also expanded their offering with additional ground floor space made available at Elegance (Gift Shop) and expansion to include the adjacent shop unit at Anne Maries (Fashion). Curvaceous has relocated to smaller, but no less suitable, premises and the refurbished Margaret’s (Post Office) is also looking great, as are all of the others businesses involved in the Let’s Talk Shop Programme.



There are still  a number of empty units in high visibility locations but the town felt vibrant with the enhanced public realm in the town centre providing a pleasing  and visually attractive setting.


In Gretna all of the original retailers visited continue to provide to the needs of their community and great to see positive changes at Bliss (Hairdressers), McKenzies ( ex Post Office now gifts and cards), Springfield Post Office and J Kerr & Sons (Butcher). All businesses were holding their own against the draw of the nearby Gretna Gateway.

Let's talk shop retail revitalisation

Spending this week visiting 20 more retailers in Dumfries engaged in the Let’s Talk Shop Support Programme funded by Dumfries and Galloway Council.

The Shop Doctor independent shops

Another very interesting selection of shops all contributing positively to the diverse range available in the town. More to follow.

Independent shops retail survival


Monaghans DumfriesAn evening retail workshop focusing on best practice in relation to visual merchandising and overall shop presentation is to take place on Monday 17 November at the Cairndale Hotel, Dumfries.

In this latest visit to Dumfries, in addition to the workshop, the Shop Doctor will be working with up to 32 independent retailers who will not only be receiving an advisory visit in the new year, but a mystery assessment visit between now and Christmas.

This is the final stage of the Shop Doctor Support Programmes for Dumfries & Galloway Council that will have seen some 232 shops across 15 towns visited and in receipt of one-to-one advice since March 2012.

For further information, please contact Grant Coltart on grant.coltart@dumgal.gov.uk

As part of the Dumfries & Galloway Business Week, our Shop Doctor presented the “Bricks with Clicks” workshop on Monday 27th October.  The presentation looked at the challenges facing online retailing and how shops might engage in the online opportunity.

The workshop included a formal PowerPoint presentation followed by a discussion about issues facing the retailers in attendance.

Feedback received since the workshop has indicated that the retailers attending the session found it informative and are intending to further increase their engagement online either through website development or active participation on social media platforms.