GLASGOW businesses are being forced to think outside of the box to compete with online retailers.

As previously reported by the Evening Times, around two shops in Glasgow closed every week in 2018.

The number opening fell short of those closing their shutters for good.

Industry bosses said they expect to see “more casualties” in 2019 as retail companies face an uphill battle to survive.

The sentiment was echoed by Stephanie Barnet, marketing manager of Shearer Candles.

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The company operate a permanent retail unit on Byres Road but make the majority of their profits through sales on Amazon.

Stephanie explained: “We do struggle. Not so much at our factory store – it’s a destination so people come to get the bargain and we’ve got parking. People aren’t really browsing there.

“Byres Road is a struggle at this time of year because we’re seasonal so we have downturn.

“The West End at the moment is difficult and changes to parking is going to impact us. If there was a car park or multi-storey nearby that would be great.

“We try to host events like candle pouring and a bit of theatre.

“We did a workshop last month where people paid to hear the nose of the company talk about fragrance so we made money off ticket sales.

“We’re having to do different things. We’re hosting factory tours on itison to get through the tough times.

“It’s difficult out there. We don’t have issues in October and Christmas time. We open pop up stores and 80 per cent of the business is done then.”

She added: “We’ve got our own website and that does well, although one of our biggest customers is Amazon. We’ve got a huge presence in Amazon.

“Our own website doesn’t do as well so we’re competing with ourselves really.”

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The already challenging retail environment could be made even tougher by the introduction of Sunday parking charges.

However, council-led strategies and a drive to increase the number of people living in the city centre, is hoped to boost business.

Among the initiatives being rolled out is the High Street Area Strategy to bring vacant units back to life, the City Centre Lanes Strategy to encourage owners to make full use of the lanes, the Commercial Bin Waste Scheme and the City Centre Living Strategy.

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: “This strategy aims to increase the population of the city centre, highlighting the area as a desirable place to live and actively grow the population to 40,000 by 2030. “The origins of the strategy came from a recognition that the city centre was facing great change – for example as a result of retail trends – and that there would be greater demand and opportunity for living in the area.

“The challenge was seen as ensuring the city centre would be a great place to live (and work, study and invest) and that the development of the residential strategy would lock in with the wider city centre strategy to achieve success and sustainability.”

Dr Noreen Siddiqui, senior lecturer in business and marketing at Glasgow Caledonian University, said retailers need to offer a different customer experience to compete with online shopping.

“Over the past decade whist retailing has development within the digital environment”, she explained.

“The bricks and clicks experience has not changed much over the past few decades, for example, if you enter a store on the high street you are exposed to rows and rows of stock with very little interaction with other customers or store staff.

“Stores have focused on ensuring stock is available rather than the customer experience.

“I think stores need to bring in more technology into the store – interactive screens that bring the digital environment into the store. For example, why not get a store customer to rate the experience and indicate how much fun they had shopping and share this on Instagram?

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“Within the clothing sector, returns is a huge issue. So retailers could turn their dressing rooms into fabulous experiences with help from store staff offering a range of different styling tips and accessories.

“If the customer is happy then they can order what they like in store and have it delivered at home – the advantage of this is that the customer has complete confidence bout the fit, colour and styling of the product with no need to return the products.”

Angus Millar, councillor for the city centre, believes the massive investments in the overall appearance of the city will ensure that Glasgow will continue to be a top shopping destination.

He added: “It’s clear that city centres across Scotland and beyond are being affected by the changing nature of the retail sector, as people shop more online and less on the high street.

“We need to ensure that central Glasgow is an attractive and vibrant place to visit and work, and the massive investment in the Avenues project – which will see Sauchiehall Street, Argyle Street and others transformed – is a great example of the kind of step we need to be taking to rethink our city centre, as is the work of the council’s Connectivity Commission which is actively considering how accessibility to the city centre from across Glasgow can be improved.

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“Glasgow’s city centre is both changing for the better and facing new challenges, so it is vital that key partners across the city work together to respond to this and plan for the future.

“The upcoming renewal of the council’s City Centre Strategy would be a good opportunity to ensure Glasgow is responding to the city centre’s needs, and I know that the business sector will be closely involved as this is taken forward.”