Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Silverburn - Glasgow

A vast new shopping mall has opened just outside Glasgow. Glaswegians famously love to shop. The City's Shopaholics already have the Buchanan Galleries, St Enoch Centre (under-going extensive refurbishment) Princes Square, Argyle street, Buchanan Street and Sauchiehall Street clamouring for their custom. But today there is also a strong pull out of town. The Fort and Braehead are already established and now vying for shoppers' cash is the interestingly named 'Silverburn' mall.
Besides shopping, Glaswegians also love a joke. So perhaps the 'burning of silver' in pursuit of consumption is a deliberate pun, although it seems perverse. I was at Silverburn on Friday evening. It has the biggest Tesco I have ever seen and boasts Scotland's largest M&S. The overground car park was full and I see from the mall's map that there is also a 2000 space multi-storey. Of course it is the car which makes these malls possible - and desirable. Parking in Glasgow is increasingly difficult and expensive. Parking at Braehead, The Fort and Silverburn isn't always much easier - but it is always free and you can push your shopping trolley right to your car.

It makes you worry for the City Centre shops. Sauchiehall Street already has more than it's fair share of 'pound' shops and discount retailers (not that there's anything wrong with pound shops, but they tend to indicate decline and deter the big names from becoming neighbours).

City Councils will have to do something radical to prevent out-of-town malls sucking the life out of their city centres. Perhaps they should introduce free city centre weekend and evening parking (you can't separate shoppers from their cars) - or even more controversially force mall operators to charge for their parking? I don't think we want our city centres to become purely business districts as they have in the US, do we? Interestingly Silverburn promotes a 'Silverburn Express' on its website - a fast link to and from Glasgow City Centre. I'd love to share the details the mall's public transport policy with you - but the web link is broken - hopefully not a metaphor for the actual 'link'.

Incidentally while inside Silverburn I took some photographs. I was approached by a shabby looking suited security man, carrying a walkie-talkie, who told me 'photos aren't allowed'. Why's that? I asked. 'I don't know - security I suppose'.

'Security' has become a catch-all excuse for far too much idiocy. One branch of M&S looks pretty much like another, no matter how many square feet of retail. You won't get stopped in Sauchiehall Street for
taking photos of the shops.

The 'banned' photo. Security is tight at Silverburn - they want shoppers to feel 'safe' - although no 'safety' worries about shoppers who are sold over-priced in-store credit.

I asked the official if he could point out the signs telling shoppers photography is banned. He said there 'aren't any'. In which case I explained he had made me feel awkward for no justified reason and had made me feel unwelcome at Silverburn. Perhaps he would pass this customer feedback on to the mall's heavy-handed bosses. I won't be back anytime soon (well until Scotland's biggest TK Maxx opens there).

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