For more than a century three streets have defined Glasgow city centre.

From the heydays of the dancehalls and the picture halls, the famous grand department stores, through to the retail, bars, restaurant and clubbing days, Sauchiehall Street, Buchanan Street and Argyle Street have been the living, breathing, beating heart of the city centre.

Now, with a revolution in retail and a post lockdown crisis for the hospitality and music sector, the three streets are facing an identity crisis.

We are literally asking ‘what are they for?’

READ MORE: Review to 'Masterplan' changes to Buchanan, Sauchiehall and Argyle streets

A task force is to review the purpose of the main shopping streets, which in the 1990s and 2000s was boasting the top shopping destination outside London.

The streets were named the ‘Golden Z’ the ‘Style Mile’ and Glasgow was binging in shoppers for near and far in their tens of thousands.

This week a Glasgow Times Spotlight series look at the three streets and how they fare.

Glasgow Times:

Today we look at Sauchiehall Street's pedestrian precinct, and while the focus has been on the big names as they close their doors, we speak to independent, small traders who rely on the city centre for their living.

Glasgow Times:

While their presence adds to what is on offer, they depend on the big names drawing in the shoppers.

With Marks & Spencer the latest, and biggest, to announce it is leaving the street there is a feeling of entering the last days of Sauchiehall Street.

READ MORE: Marks and Spencer Sauchiehall Street: Glasgow reacts to shock closure

BHS, C&A, Dunnes, HMV, Watt Bros, Dixons, Littlewoods are just some of the big names already to have come and gone on the street in recent decades.

A walk along the street shows the scale of empty units and the impact on those who remain.

From the start of the pedestrian precinct at Rose Street to the top of Buchanan Street the Glasgow Times counted 67 units on that stretch of Sauchiehall Street.

Of those there were 18 currently empty, two more that have announced they are closing and four which are to let with a tenant still currently trading.

More than one in three either closed or closing.

But the numbers alone do not tell the whole story, for among those are the biggest units on the street lying empty.

BHS and Dunnes bookend the precinct like hollow, angry giants dragging the street down. Watt Bros, in the middle, will not see an open purse or wallet again.

Jamie O’Neill, owner of Hotspot on Sauchiehall Street, which he opened in 2019, says the lack of people in the city centre is a serious concern.

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He said: “During Covid, the first few months we were obviously closed.

“After that, the street took a bit of time to recover but with the offices not fully going back and people being discouraged from coming to the city centre unless they really needed to, it was like dominos.

“Moving down the street, one store after another... all these were big names that used to bring footfall to the city centre.

“Now small businesses like mine and others in the Savoy Centre are really struggling because people that would come here normally, they’re just not coming.”

George Rogers’s repair shop Mac’s, opened nine years ago, but now is sitting among several empty units on Sauchiehall Street.

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He said it is about survival at the moment.

He said: “I think it’s going to take the months ahead to kind of get a realisation of how much impact the closures have got on the street.

“Lately we’ve just been in survival mode, so you’re not really thinking about it as much, rather than just getting through each day as it comes just now, but the more closures that come, it’s going to have a real impact.

“My hope for the business and for here is that when office workers come back, business will come back.

“I do notice that Saturday and Sunday trading has dropped substantially.

“The expensive rents are the biggest issue, I just hope it doesn’t get worse.”

Change is afoot with the plans to demolish Buchanan Galleries and rebuilt new streets

The taskforce says that will be key factor is future plans and that Sauchiehall Street will be a priority in the wider review.

Angus Millar, Co-Chair of the City Centre Task Force, said: “It’s vital that we take a strategic approach to supporting areas like Sauchiehall Street, identifying opportunities for the repurposing of vacant retail/commercial units, redeveloping gap sites and reviewing the balance of different uses of property there.

“This review will make a significant contribution to our recovery efforts and promoting a positive future for our city centre.”

Developers, like Buchanan Galleries owners Landsec, can afford to play the long game but for traders like Jamie and George, where survival is a month to month battle, it can’t come soon enough.