Gaps in the Mercat

Yesterday, for the first time in a while, I took a trip into Kirkcaldy’s main shopping centre, the Mercat. I’m very familiar with the first set of shops that meet you from the entrance. I passed them all many, many times on my way to work at the late, great Woolworths.

This opening corridor is a very strange looking place now. The entrance to Woolworths lies at the end of the corridor, facing the entrance to the Mercat. It is the first thing you see as you enter. This alone makes the shopping centre feel dark and desolate. Instead of a bustling Woolies, there is now a large grey shutter, unflinchingly shut.

What is now striking about this section of the Mercat is the fact that so many other shops have shut since Woolies closed down. In fact, when you look at it, there is barely a shop between the entrance of the Mercat and Woolworths that hasn’t been badly affected by the recession.

At the entrance, on the left, is The Officers Club. This briefly went into administration just before Christmas. But a number of stores were saved, including Kirkcaldy’s. This is actually one of the few success stories of the Mercat’s recent past.

Opposite The Officers Club is The Works. This has been in the Mercat for a while. The only problem is, it used to occupy a much larger unit with two floors. The new Works is probably a third of the size. It occupies the slot that was vacated by Bookworld a couple of years ago.

The old home of The Works was filled over Christmas by Calendar Club, a makeshift shop that was only there for a couple of months. Today the unit lies empty.

Next to it lies the former home of Internacionale. This has become empty since Christmas. Presumably they have moved into the Mk One unit at the other end of the shopping centre.

Further along, we come to Passion for Perfume. This is another chain which unravelled in the run-up to Christmas. Today, it’s just another grey shutter left permanently down.

Opposite lies an empty space which is presumably a unit which has been vacant for as long as I can remember. This is next door to Card Factory which has also recently closed down. the Original Shoe Company, a JJB Sports subsidiary which was recently put into administration. Now the only thing on display there is the windolene smeared all over the entrance.

At the top of the corridor, next to the former Woolies unit lies the entrance to an actual JJB Sports. Ironically, this is actually a relatively new shop. It fills a unit that had been empty for a while. It was extensively renovated to accommodate JJB Sports. The shop itself is upstairs, residing directly above Woolworths. I reckon around 18 months was spent building just above our shop (and they were quite noisy about it at times too).

Then, mere days after JJB opened, rumours about its seriously poor health surfaced. I think it, just about, remains open. But I hear it is absolutely dead. I am not surprised given than you are presented with nothing but an escalator when you go through the entrance.

I have heard that JJB were actually reluctant to move in. I am told that the Mercat paid for all of the renovation work themselves. If that is true, they must really be kicking themselves. Not only did they build it for a shop that has been on its knees ever since it opened, they could now take their pick from about half a dozen empty units.

This is a stroke of bad luck really. Once you turn the corner past Woolies, the situation is not quite so bad. But the impression you get as you walk through the entrance is that the Mercat is half dead. Almost every store along the way has been affected by the credit crunch, the only exceptions being Greggs and HMV.

It may put people off proceeding further than Woolies. The whole place feels so dark and empty now. Instead of bright shop lights, you are presented with shutter after shutter. The contrast to twelve months ago could hardly be greater.

(With apologies to dad, from whom I nicked this post’s title.)

11 comments

  1. your totally right in what your saying here, the brutal thing is that i really cant see what can be done to reverse this sort of thing, new shops locate at out of town retail parks and the town dies a slow death. i see that they have decided to build a swimming pool with gym facilities in the car park at ocean/afterdark. at least that may bring people into town and eventully herald a slow revival. my concern is with rising umemp, incredible amounts of public and private debt and the out of town retail developments that a recovery is improbable at best.

  2. Thanks for leaving a comment Richard.

    I didn’t know about the new swimming pool outside Afterdark. Is that to replace the current one? There is already a swimming pool a stone’s throw away.

    I think you’re probably right about the town centres. This pattern is being repeated in High Streets all over the country, which I think is a shame because I like the idea of being able to just walk down to the shops, rather than having to go by car or bus.

  3. yeah its a replacement for the current run down one. it was originally planned simply as a pool, but i think they have made the correct decision to make it a gym aswell, more likely to get more people into it and more people down the town. If werent in this econ mess i would say some tax cuts, abolishing parking fees and a few inor changes would enable high streets to be reborn but i dont think this will be feasable soon and by the time it is the retail park will be over dominant. Perhaps they should look at the town becoming more of an entertainment center, try an get a bowling alley and other pubs or something. Its a great shame that there doesnt appear to be a grand plan.

  4. You started your post with the following: “Yesterday, for the first time in a while, I took a trip into Kirkcaldy’s main shopping centre, the Mercat.”
    Perhaps if people such as yourself visited the shopping centre more often then it wouldn’t be so empty?

  5. Sorry it’s taken me a while to get back to the comments.

    Richard, I know what you mean. It’s difficult to see what the solution could be. Maybe it is a bowling alley as you say. Or a cinema? What is replacing the current swimming pool then?

    I like crisps, I’m afraid I don’t have such power to keep the shops open. My p is too small. 🙂

  6. I would be in favour of a cinema being built in the town but i here that the vue cinema will be at the retail park. I can see why they would want it there, much easier access.
    I have no idea about what is to happen to the current pool, shut down firstly and then possibly knocked down for car parking or something, putting a sports institute on the ground at after dark will result in quite alot of space being taken up. Though i believe the current multi story is to be knocked down.

  7. Ah right, I didn’t know about the multi story car park. I imagine the swimming pool will be turned into a car park in that case then.

  8. the only other thing that worries me is that with the impending cuts they may decide not to build it or to delay it, which i think would be bad for the area. Faced with a choice between teachers/something else and a new swimming pool i imagine they will choice the former. Though i hope they cut something else.

  9. Regarding the comment about JJB, most of their stores seem to just have escalators for entrances. I can think of the stores in Dundee Stirling as examples. I’m sure there are more. Seems an odd decision.

  10. Just read all your comments regarding the closure of Woolworths Kirkcaldy. The site has been purchased by PEACOCKS for their brand new fashion store! Its opening in September 2009 which will be great news for the town. It will have Ladies Fashion, Shoes, Lingerie, Nightwear, Mens Fashion, Girls 6-15, Boys 6-15, Toddler 1-6 and Baby!! I know alot of my friends are really excited about this fashion store coming to Kirkcaldy…