That is the warning from Dumfries Retailers Association and two major landlords, as they mount a united stance against a bid by retail giant Next to relocate to the outskirts of town.
Anton Dummigan from property investment and development firm Wirefox said: “The future economic prosperity of Dumfries town centre is under severe threat and must be safeguarded by the council.
“The loss of a major retailer such as Next could herald a mass exodus of larger operators from the town centre, leading to the loss of hundreds of jobs and sounding the death knell for the local economy.”
Last September, Wirefox bought the Southergate Centre which sits directly opposite The Loreburne Shopping Centre — currently home to Next.
Dumfries and Galloway Council are set to consider a proposal by Next’s owners NewRiver REIT (UK) to create a new 12,900 sq ft store with cafe at Cuckoo Bridge retail park, blaming a ‘sustained period of declining sales’ in their Loreburn Centre store.
Speaking on behalf of Loreburne Shopping Centre owners Loreburn SC Propco B.V., Ross Campbell from Edinburgh House Estates said: “The town centre is currently protected from the serious threat of out-of-town retail by the existing planning polices.
“NewRiver’s planning application seeks to remove these protections and allow the retail parks to directly compete with the town centre for both the tenants and trade which has decimated other Scottish towns.”
Wirefox’s Anton Drummigan says the firm has long-term investment plans for the Southergate Centre which will ‘significantly enhance the town centre’s retail offering’.
But he said: “These may not be viable if the vitality of Dumfries town centre is not protected.”
Both NewRiver REIT (UK) and Next Ltd were approached for comment, but neither has responded.
Dumfries Retailers Association chairman Rab Smith warns that The Scottish Retail Consortium recently reported a 0.4 per cent drop in high street footfall compared to July last year.
And he said: “It’s very concerning and we have to work in partnership to generate new initiatives to encourage footfall and ensure Dumfries town centre bucks the trend and doesn’t end up a ghost town.”