CORONAVIRUS has brought with it few positives since the first case of the deadly virus hit these shores last year.

But one strange upshot it may bring is reviving local high streets that have suffered from years of losing trade to malls and online shopping.

That’s according to Natalie Whittle, the owner of Outwith Books in Govanhill.

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She said: “From my perspective, people have been very vocal about saying they want to support local businesses because they know this is a really weird and precarious time for us.

“Over lockdown, people have developed new routines and are used to now circulating in their local areas rather than going further afield.

“It’s a much more informal experience than maybe being rushed around a one-way system around a big store.”

“Maybe it is less intimidating for people to just pop in. It is a really small shop, so you can see at a glance what we have and we have benches outside for people to wait.”

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Lockdowns and messages to stay local may have changed people’s shopping habits, but could it be that masks are making people more inclined to shop on the high street?

Are shoppers now finally returning to high streets because they prefer the comfort of being able to take off their face coverings between stores rather than tramping around an enclosed indoor mall with a piece of fabric over their mouths and noses for hours?

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Jim Gray, the manager of A1 Comics in the Merchant City, agrees that malls are not the place to be during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t think I have been in a mall since all this happened,” he said.

“I was the manager of our store in Silverburn, which closed down during the first lockdown.

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“People can come up to our door, in Parnie Street, and put their masks on, have a browse about, get anything if they want to and then leave and take the mask off and get a bit of fresh air.”

But, he admitted, it is not clear whether shoppers are being put off enclosed malls in favour of traditional high streets: “It is very hard to gauge.”

Shopping centre bosses insist consumers are getting used to wearing masks and say it isn’t putting people off coming to their malls.

Peter Beagley, Braehead centre director said: “People seem to have got used to wearing masks over the past year and it certainly hasn’t stopped visitors coming to Braehead.

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“Our footfall is healthy compared to pre-Covid times and we’re seeing a lot of families spending time in the shopping centre during the summer holidays.

“It’s almost as if wearing a mask has now become the norm and people appreciate the protection against Covid a face covering gives them and other people.

“Even after face coverings are no longer compulsory, I suspect there will be some shoppers who will choose to wear a face covering to protect themselves and others around them.”

According to the latest official figures, footfall in the city centre, measured by sensors in Buchanan Street, Sauchiehall Street and others, is rising as restrictions ease but remains significantly lower than it was pre-pandemic.

As far as Glasgow city council is concerned, a move back to traditional high streets, where shoppers can get the things they need and want within a short walk from their homes, is good news.

As Natalie pointed out, the council wants to emulate an idea that emerged in the American city Portland, where it has been a key plank of their planning policy since 2010.

15-minute neighbourhoods are a fashionable concept these days, with a number of big cities across the globe buying into the idea that city-dwellers should be able to meet most of their everyday needs within a 15 (or 20, in the case of Portland) minute walking or cycling radius of the place they live.

A spokesman for Glasgow city council said: “Our footfall figures from the past two years show starkly the impact of the covid restrictions on the city centre.

“The positive to take from the figures is that with restrictions easing there is now an upward trajectory to the figures and that’s something we want to build on.

“We have convened a city centre taskforce and we are working with multiple partners, including the Chamber of Commerce and the Scottish Government, to find ways to support the economic recovery of the city centre.

“Our existing city centre strategy also aims to substantially grow the city centre’s residential population and that will help to create a more sustainable and resilient city centre economy in the longer term.”