HELENSBURGH’S independent businesses will be working hard to keep the town centre thriving, business chiefs say – despite the loss of another national company’s store.

Thomas Cook’s collapse means that its East Princes Street store has closed, while the buildings formerly occupied by Santander, on the corner of West Princes Street and Sinclair Street, and the Logie Baird pub in James Street, remain empty.

Thorntons and Clarks, on Sinclair Street, are also about to shut their doors, but the Helensburgh and Lomond Chamber of Commerce says that the town centre remains a popular area.

Argyll and Bute Council also agreed to make the centre of Helensburgh the town’s third conservation area at a meeting on Thursday.

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A spokesperson for the Chamber said: “The Chamber now has an independent review of the town which highlights the fact that Helensburgh is punching well above its weight as a small town and is doing extremely well given the challenges facing high streets across our nation.

“It notes that business confidence is strong but yet the focus appears to be on the few shops which are undergoing a natural change of owner or tenancy with the suggestion that this could be of great significance for the town.

“Helensburgh town centre is home to 262 individual businesses and across the wide spectrum of individual owners and tenants the average vacancy rate is less than seven per cent.

“The five shops mentioned represent five per cent of the properties in the town.

“Most of them are national companies who are dealing with changes to their global business as a result of the change in consumer demands and management issues at senior level.

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“Sixty-one per cent of Helensburgh businesses are independent traders who strive to provide good service to the community and remain viable, which of course means they must adapt and change as markets develop.

“Of the vacant shops you mention I understand that many have interested parties who are keen to come and trade in Helensburgh and bring additional consumer choice to the town centre.

“This is a natural evolution of any vibrant town.”

The spokesperson added: “The Chamber is keen to welcome new traders. The town will continue to grow in that way. We do not wish to be associated with any message that Helensburgh has a failing high street.

“If you were shopping in town last Friday and Saturday you would have witnessed the fact that Helensburgh is not falling victim to that fate.

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"The Chamber will continue to promote the fact that Helensburgh is thriving, open for business and our shops are keen to welcome customers as we head towards what we hope will be a very busy trading time for all traders.

“The Chamber is also appreciative of the fact that our businesses will be supported by a strong and active volunteer sector who will work hard to present the town at its best over the festive season in support of local commerce, residents and visitors.”

An Argyll and Bute Council spokesperson said: “It is very sad to see shops close in any of our town centres. However, our determination remains firm – to support existing businesses and create new business opportunities.

“Helensburgh is identified as a key area of potential in our Rural Growth Deal. We have seen, through CHORD, how investment can attract new business and revitalise established ones.

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“Introducing a conservation are will open up potential to attract further funding which would enhance previous investment and mark Helensburgh as the place to be.”