As Waitrose prepares to shut the doors of its Helensburgh supermarket for the last time on Sunday, Craig Borland considers what the store’s closure might mean in the short term for residents and other local businesses...

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HELENSBURGH'S roads might have become a good deal quieter during the lockdown, but I think it’s a fairly safe bet that come Monday morning, the A814 to and from Dumbarton will start to become quite a bit busier as local shoppers displaced by Waitrose’s closure look for somewhere else to stock up on essentials.

Pleas for Waitrose to delay the closure of its Helensburgh store, or for the buyer of the site, Morrisons, to allow that to happen, have failed to have an effect.

I’m not quite sure where the blame for that lies, but it’s still a great pity that the two companies couldn’t come to some sort of arrangement to have things stay as they are, for now, and to keep the store open until the lockdown limits begin to ease a bit.

READ MORE: Helensburgh faces a long wait for Morrisons as Waitrose closes this weekend

I know the Co-op has been planning for the knock-on effect of Waitrose’s closure almost since the day it was announced. I’m sure Tesco will have been doing the same.

But in view of the rules on social distancing – to which the vast majority of us have been adhering – the effect of two supermarkets’ worth of customers queuing to get in to one store from Monday morning onwards is not hard to imagine.

One obvious positive, in normal circumstances, would be that Helensburgh’s independent butchers, bakers, greengrocers, fishmongers, general stores and so on will be ‘done a turn’ by Waitrose closing.

READ MORE: Disappointment as Waitrose says 'no' to Helensburgh closure delay pleas

But those shops are already working flat out to keep the town supplied – many with reduced workforces as a result of the pandemic.

And while they are all doing an outstanding job, and I’m sure they’ll continue to rise to the challenge, will they collectively have the capacity to fully plug a Waitrose-sized gap?

I’m also sure that in the present circumstances there will be quite a few folk who’ll feel uneasy about driving all the way to Dumbarton to do the weekly shop, when every road trip beyond the bare minimum is fraught with even greater risk than usual.

READ MORE: Nine years of news...look back at how Waitrose made the Helensburgh headlines

I just hope nobody will try to claim that adding 14 miles to your round trip, in order to reach the next nearest supermarket, doesn’t qualify as an essential journey, when the alternative is the prospect of a long wait of an hour or more outside the Co-op, in a slow-moving queue, quite possibly in some of that dreich Scottish spring weather we all know and love.

The ‘Waitrose effect’ – the impact that having a Waitrose store in a town has on property prices – has been written about a lot in recent years, but I’m fairly confident that Helensburgh is resolute enough to resist the reverse of that in the long run.

We’ll all stand up to the short-term effects of Waitrose’s closure too – but as the pandemic lockdown rumbles on, and the opening of a Morrisons store remains months away at best, the immediate impact of the 'no Waitrose' effect is probably the last thing Helensburgh, and its vulnerable residents in particular, need right now.

READ MORE: Catch up with all the latest news stories from around Helensburgh and Lomond here