Demand for quicker action

Councils and landlords blasted for failing to help retailers


Institution: the shop traded in Ayr for 123 years


Local councils and ‘inflexible’ landlords have been criticised for failing to do enough to prevent more retailers from closing.

Eileen Blackburn of accountancy firm French Duncan accused local authorities of being too slow to respond to the growing crisis on the high street.

Speaking after her firm was called in to liquidate Hourstons, a 123-year-old shopping institution in Ayr town centre, she said: “Local councils need to look at ways to assist retailers, casual dining outlets and other stalwarts of the High Street to ensure that city centres remain attractive to consumers in the years to come.

“However, punitive business taxes and an inflexible approach by landlords are leading to retail deserts in the heart of our communities.

“Local councils undoubtedly don’t want the destruction of our city centres to occur but don’t seem to be acting quickly enough to prevent further closures.”

She noted that rent was not an issue in the case of Hourstons as the landlord owned the building.

Hourstons shuts

Our report last month on the closure of Hourstons

Hourstons, which was established 123 years ago and provided a broad offering of fashion, beauty, gifts and furniture, closed last month and yesterday the business was formally wound up with the loss of the remaining 70 jobs. Ms Blackburn and Linda Barr will now seek buyers for the company’s assets.

Ms Barr said: “Unfortunately, this is a sign of the times and the very real changes which have occurred in the High Street.

“The High Street has become a much more hostile place for many traditional businesses as consumers shift their spending online leaving the centres of our towns and cities with large scale businesses suddenly missing essential customers. It is extremely difficult to turn around long established businesses once sales start to fall and difficulties emerge.

“Hourstons is an iconic brand in Ayrshire and its closure, and the loss of jobs, will be a difficult pill to swallow for the people and community of Ayr.

“We shall be selling off the assets of the business but, unfortunately, not as a going concern. The main property is currently being marketed as a development opportunity by CBRE and DM Hall and is unlikely to remain a retail site in the future.”

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