Byres Road businesses look to students to boost local sales amid coronavirus slump

By Ian Marland at

Students returning to their studies in the coming weeks and days hold the key to the Byres Road economy, according to traders.

However, there is concern that a reduced influx of students could harm an already fragile situation for shops, cafes and restaurants.

The worry comes amid the findings of a local survey which gives a snapshot of pressures facing businesses.

University of Glasgow

Students returning to University of Glasgow hold the key to the local economy.

Not surprisingly, a majority of traders on Byres Road are seeing a decrease in sales and footfall.

Most say takings are down and fear the coronavirus pandemic will affect income for months to come.

And many see the return of students to University of Glasgow as crucial to their business, according to the survey.

A business representative will next week seek assurances from the university about how the return will look.

The snapshot survey was carried out by the area’s business improvement district team.

‘Drastic’

Byres Road & The Lanes BID chairman and business owner John Turner said: “As far as the question of students, our concerns are that a reduction in student numbers will have a potentially drastic knock-on effect on footfall and sales for all types of businesses in the West End.

“The worry is that if the students don’t return, or return in smaller numbers, this side of Christmas, then the next few months could be very difficult.

“Add to that the end of the Eat Out To Help Out scheme, and the worries about the new lockdown restrictions and whether they may be extended, for example to the hospitality sector, and then you can see why many of our members are deeply concerned.”

Nearly 30,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students from over 140 countries worldwide study at the University of Glasgow each year.

This year, Freshers’ Week gets under way on on September 14 and most undergraduate courses are due to commence on September 21.

Byres Road

Traders say the pandemic will hit them for months to come.

However, most teaching will be done remotely in the first semester or term, and some overseas students may be prevented from travel due to restrictions.

The university has said its campus will be fully open, and labs and group study spaces will offer access.

The business survey sampled a small number of respondents.

Fourteen local businesses answered a series of questions about trade since shops and cafes reopened after lockdown.

They included six retail shops, an optician and two hair and beauty salons. None of the businesses are named.

Cancellations

Six out of seven recorded a fall in sales; three cited concerns about staffing levels; one has seen an increase in booking cancellations.

All said coronavirus had had some kind of impact.

Businesses highlighted a range of measures they had taken to make their premises safe.

Apart from increased cleaning and sanitising, several businesses cited increase use of contactless payments and risk assessments.

One had launched an online shop and another had started doing postal sales in response.

The survey stated: “One business said that the serious downturn in capacity and revenue will be difficult to maintain in the long term.

Byres Road

Dark clouds: Footfall and sales have been hit by the pandemic.

“Some businesses highlighted how the reopening of Glasgow University is key to increasing footfall in the area.

“Some said that they thought that this year’s Christmas sales will not be as good as previous years.

“Some businesses said that it was difficult to predict the future effect if the pandemic at this time.

“Businesses cited a second wave of the virus or second lockdown as something that could affect them in the future.”