Business / Living Lerwick keen to attract new businesses to the street amid councillor’s concern over town centre

Photo: Jim Mullay

LIVING Lerwick says it is working on ways to attract new businesses to the town centre amid concern from one local councillor that the area is in a “dire situation” with shops closing and properties laying empty.

At a council meeting on Wednesday Lerwick South member Neil Pearson questioned what was being done to encourage small and larger businesses to set up shop.

His ward colleague John Fraser also gave the message of “bring it on” when it came to the idea of “high street big hitters” opening in Shetland.

But Shetland Islands Council (SIC) convener Andrea Manson denied there had been historic resistance locally to this in the past, saying the relatively low footfall was the main reason why few high street companies have opened up in Lerwick.

It comes after one of the few national retailers in Shetland – M&Co – confirmed its Lerwick branch will have its last day on Saturday 1 April as its stores shut across the country following a period of administration.


Lerwick M&Co branch confirms closure date

There are a number of other vacant properties on Commercial Street, some of which relate to management or owners retiring , including the long-standing R.W. Bayes shop which closed at the end of the year.

The Miller Opticians premises at the Market Cross has also gone up for lease, while the Tangled hair salon is available for rent or purchase.

The popular Peerie Shop Cafe recently closed after manager James Martin moved on to pastures new, but is expected to reopen in due course.

Lerwick councillor Neil Pearson.

The Faerdie Maet premises also remains on the market with an asking price of offers over £130,000 after the takeaway/cafe closed last year.

Pearson, who suggested there were also struggles outwith Lerwick, questioned what the council and Promote Shetland – which is funded by the SIC – was doing to encourage more businesses to set up shop in the isles.

Become a supporter of Shetland News


He said he has not seen so many empty shops and businesses closing down.

Development director Neil Grant said it was a “very challenging environment” – but one with opportunities.

He added that it is an issue not just for Shetland, and said he believed there needs to be a more collective effort.

“There’s something about the place development and how we go about accessing funding to be able to develop the centre,” Grant said.

Meanwhile Lerwick South member John Fraser said he supported the idea of chains opening up in Shetland.

“The reality is they employ staff, they bring footfall and they create trade for the traders next door,” he said. “I say bring it on.”

But Manson said it has been Shetland’s small population that has discouraged more high street retailers from opening up in Lerwick, rather than a historic “resistance” from the community.

Emma Miller of Living Lerwick. Photo: Ben Mullay.

Pearson said he wanted to draw attention to an issue which he feels is “quite serious”.

He said he accepts that town centres “all over the country are suffering” but felt it seems to be magnified in Shetland at the moment.

“My question was whether our current approach to attracting people and businesses to Shetland was the right one for the situation we find ourselves in,” he added after the meeting.

“I have already been approached by [town centre organisation] Living Lerwick who want to meet me to discuss their plans.

“I would equally be interested to investigate whether the focus of the  Promote Shetland contract is in the right place for our current circumstance as well. I think in short it’s potentially time for a review.”


Living Lerwick is tasked with overseeing a ‘business improvement district’ in the centre of the town.

It hosts events in a bid to encourage more footfall in Lerwick, seeks to push marketing and aims to make the town centre a more attractive place to visit. Its main source of funding is levy fees paid by businesses within the district.

Speaking after the meeting project manager Emma Miller said while there has been some negativity on social media around Commercial Street at the moment, there has also been a “flurry of very positive comments” too.

“I think many people do understand our local business owners are trying very hard to offer goods and services in a very challenging financial climate,” she said.

“We are involved in ongoing discussions with our council liaison officer within the economic development department and are working on ways to promote the excellent provision we already have, but also to attract new businesses to our town centre.”

Become a supporter of Shetland News

Shetland News is asking its many readers to consider start paying for their dose of the latest local news delivered straight to their PC, tablet or mobile phone.

Journalism comes at a price and because that price is not being paid in today’s rapidly changing media world, most publishers - national and local - struggle financially despite very healthy audience figures.

Most online publishers have started charging for access to their websites, others have chosen a different route. Shetland News currently has  over 600 supporters  who are all making small voluntary financial contributions. All funds go towards covering our cost and improving the service further.

Your contribution will ensure Shetland News can: -

  • Bring you the headlines as they happen;
  • Stay editorially independent;
  • Give a voice to the community;
  • Grow site traffic further;
  • Research and publish more in-depth news, including more Shetland Lives features.

If you appreciate what we do and feel strongly about impartial local journalism, then please become a supporter of Shetland News by either making a single payment or monthly subscription.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.



Subscribe to a selection of different newsletters from Shetland News, varying from breaking news delivered on the minute, to a weekly round-up of the opinion posts. All delivered straight to your inbox.

Daily Briefing Newsletter Weekly Highlights Newsletter Opinion Newsletter Life in Shetland Newsletter

JavaScript Required

We're sorry, but Shetland News isn't fully functional without JavaScript enabled.
Head over to the help page for instructions on how to enable JavaScript on your browser.

Your Privacy

We use cookies on our site to improve your experience.
By using our service, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy.

Browser is out-of-date

Shetland News isn't fully functional with this version of .
Head over to the help page for instructions on updating your browser for more security, improved speed and the best overall experience on this site.

Interested in Notifications?

Get notifications from Shetland News for important and breaking news.
You can unsubscribe at any time.

Become a supporter of Shetland News

We're committed to ensuring everyone has equitable access to impartial, open and quality local journalism that benefits all residents.

By supporting Shetland News, you play a vital role in ensuring we remain a pivotal resource in supporting the community.

Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.