SAUCHIEHALL Street can return to its former glory despite two huge fires which have put dozens of traders out of business, according to a top Scots retail expert.

Leigh Sparks, professor of retail studies at the Institute for Retail Studies at the University of Stirling, believes the famous street’s fortunes could be turned around similar to Edinburgh’s George Street, which has undergone a transformation in recent years becoming one of the capital’s premier shopping destinations.

He said: “Retailing is changing and you need to make places much more interesting for consumers. Look at the way retailing has moved off Princes Street in Edinburgh into George Street.

Glasgow gets a lot of people coming into the city and having the name Sauchiehall Street, which is iconic, is important.

“You need to keep building on that heritage, history and revitalising it – and I think there is every chance the street will come back to what it was.”

The Evening Times walked the length of Sauchiehall Street from Driftwood to the Buchanan Galleries entrance, and found 75 businesses were up for let or inaccessible due to the recent fires.

The first fire at Victoria’s Nightclub, in March, shut down the block from discount retailer Savers to city pub Lauders.

Within that cordon, the BHS empty unit had already been empty since 2016 while sports retailer Greaves closed last year blaming the rise of out-of-town shopping centres.

Last month, the devastating fire at the Glasgow School of Art delivered another hammer blow to the street, with neighbouring businesses Campus and the O2 ABC damaged.

A second cordon set up for public safety will be in place for weeks if not months, putting several small independent traders and popular brands out of operation.

Nando’s, Bagel Mania and Deeserts are just some of the firms within the second cordon.

Irish department store chain Dunnes store also vacated a huge unit on the street which has remained empty since its closure last year.

Professor Sparks said: “The classic Z ‘ends’ of Glasgow including Sauchiehall Street and Argyle Street have been affected by the development of the Buchanan Galleries and the intensification of the core.

“That has caused problems for both of those ends but it is particularly noticeable on Sauchiehall Street.

“Glasgow City Council has some really interesting plans for what to do with Sauchiehall Street.

“Businesses are changing and the way people shop is changing as well.

“The way people do things in the city is also changing so Sauchiehall Street needs to be improved as a consequence of that.”

He added: “Some of the plans I have seen are quite interesting, they are bringing life and animation back to the street, where people can dwell, want to see things and physically be part of the street.

“I think that is difficult at the minute with the nature of the street as it is.”

The plan Professor Sparks refers to is the multi-million pound Avenue project, which will see a number of improvements.

Amongst them are a ‘multifunctional service verge’ will be created as well as a two-way cycle lane on the north side of the street and wider pavements to make way for alfresco eating and drinking.

New bus shelters, cycle stands, seating and improved street lighting will be installed on the street to make it more pedestrian friendly. The plans aim to create less traffic in the area with work expected to be finished by next summer.

The £7.2m project is the first of 16 Avenue projects to be delivered in the city centre as part of a £115m scheme funded through the Glasgow City Region City Deal.

We also previously reported on plans for the £75m redevelopment of the BHS site.

The plans include 130,000 sq ft of high-spec Grade A office space. The building used for almost half a century by BHS will also add

new ‘boutique offices’ retail space.

A Glasgow City Council spokesman said: “Before the recent fires on and near Sauchiehall Street, we had already started work on the creation of the Sauchiehall Avenue between Charing Cross and Rose Street as one of the projects through which the street was to be regenerated.

“The Avenue had been identified as a key project after much consultation with local community groups, residents, businesses and major institutions, and we are hopeful that this will attract further investment in the street to follow that (£75million) on the former BHS site as other projects follow."

He confirmed they were looking at "overall plans" for Sauchiehall Street and may have to revise dates for work due to the exclusion zones.

“We don’t have to look too far to see examples of streets in other major city centres where the right kind of investment and support can return them to their status as a leading destination for visitors of all kinds.”

Stuart Patrick, chief executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, said: “There

has undoubtedly been a ‘perfect storm’ of two

major fires alongside a revolution in online

shopping which together have severely damaged one of Glasgow’s most important streets.

“It is extremely unfortunate that the extensive landscaping works which will positively transform Sauchiehall Street are currently also posing major challenges for businesses.

“We’re actively working with the recently-established Sauchiehall Street Task Force to devise and deliver a strategy which tackles both the complex immediate short-term issues affecting traders as well as guiding the long-term recovery of the street.

“The Task Force is extremely committed and brings together a range of organisations including Glasgow City Council, Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, the Federation of Small Business, and Scottish Government agencies.

“We fully understand the scale of the challenges

being faced by businesses on the street and we are determined to help forge a new future for Sauchiehall Street.”