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.)