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Lerwick not a ghost town

Commercial Street is Lerwick's main shopping street.

A SPOKESWOMAN for a town centre association has said more can be done to improve the experience for shoppers and tourists in Lerwick on a Sunday.

Living Lerwick business improvement district (BID) co-manager Emma Miller said a number of challenges face Sunday opening for shops and cafes – not least the importance of getting across to the public what is and isn’t open.

She urged both Living Lerwick members – mostly town centre shops and traders – and the public to make use of the organisation’s website at www.livinglerwick.co.uk to promote and find out what is available on a Sunday.

Miller denied that Lerwick is a Sunday ghost town, as suggested in some of the responses in an ongoing debate in Shetland News’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/shetlandnews, which was provoked by a letter from Brae resident Dorothy O’Brian.

Miller said: “In terms of shops and businesses, there’s a few open on Sunday. When we know cruise liners are coming in the likes of M&Co, Mirrie Dancers and Smiths of Lerwick would be open.

“We would encourage as many people as possible to open on a Sunday if they know the cruise ships are coming in.” This information and anticipated visitor numbers can be made available to businesses in the area.

Miller said that a fairly good estimate could be made of the number of cruise passengers that would be in Lerwick on any given Sunday, but that there were perhaps only six or seven Sunday liner visits over the summer and half of these were small ships. Bus tour numbers could also be subtracted.

Ultimately, she said that it was a decision for businesses to take whether to open on Sunday or not. Some might simply not be selling the sort of things in demand from tourists.

There were also real problems of staffing on a Sunday and the fact that some employees who lived in the country and had no cars did not have any public transport either.

Miller believed that some of the newer food and drink businesses starting up now would be open on a Sunday as well as the established hotels, though these were not particularly visible from the Esplanade and might not be as established in the public mind as a food destination.

But she said that people in Shetland often took time to adjust to new things, so businesses in Lerwick that tried opening on Sundays and were underwhelmed by the response, should persevere until the fact of their opening had become established.