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SGF Study Tour Finds Inverclyde Is Open For Business

Above - The Scottish Grocers Federation Tour of Inverclyde at the redeveloped Gourock Pierhead

Each year, the Scottish Grocers Federation (SGF) visit different areas across Scotland to highlight the investment opportunities for its members. Working alongside hosts Riverside Inverclyde (ri), the 2017 SGF Study Tour visited Inverclyde in September 2017 for an education on the recent regeneration of the area and the opportunities for local retailers. 

Recent SGF study tours have earned a reputation for the unconventional and last month’s latest Tour was no exception with a group of retailers, wholesalers and suppliers heading to the west coast to learn about the regeneration of Inverclyde and its three towns: Greenock, Gourock and Port Glasgow. Scottish Local Retailer (SLR) joined the Study Tour once more and enjoyed a fascinating, informative and very busy day comprising presentations, site visits, factory visits, walking tours and a guided bus trip.


The area has suffered a tough time in recent decades following the collapse of many of its key industries like shipbuilding before the subsequent offshoring of its tech zone it had once focused its regeneration efforts upon. When flagship ‘tenant’ IBM pulled away from its Spango Valley site, it left huge economic and unemployment challenges. 

The study tour gave attendees the chance to see the efforts being made to regenerate Inverclyde – and with some very important successes. The passion and enthusiasm of the team at Riverside Inverclyde, the body tasked with co-ordinating the regeneration, was striking.

Above - The tour included a visit to Gourock's iconic outdoor swimming pool

Ri's CEO Fiona Maguire welcomed the group as it disembarked at Gourock railway station and gave a tour of the entirely rebuilt transport hub, a development that has kick-started a raft of knock-on investment in the immediate surroundings. A walking tour of the town centre then offered a first-hand look at how the high street has been rebuilt before it was down to Greenock for a tour of the Golden Casket factory, conducted by CEO Crawford Rae. A presentation on the history of the company was followed by a walk around the factory where the famous Buchanans and Millions brands, among others, are made. A true family business, the business employs around 200 staff, making it one of the largest employers in the region.

Above - Golden Casket's Managing Director, Crawford Rae gives an overview of the company to the SGF members

A visit to the waterside Beacon Arts Centre then allowed for some presentations by several local entrepreneurs, chaired by Riverside Inverclyde's Head of Business Investment, Andrew Bowman.

The speakers included Graeme Galbraith, Marina Manager at the flourishing James Watt Dock Marina who explained the massively positive economic impact the marina has on the local area, and Martin McAdam, CEO of Ardgowan Distillery. The Distillery has yet to be built and is unlikely to start producing saleable whisky for at least eight or nine years but the multi-million-pound project will involve the creation of a very large development complete with distillery, warehousing, retail space, restaurants and more.

The day was rounded off with a guided bus tour of sites of interest around the region which included Ocean Terminal; Kip Marina and Power Station; the site of Ardgowan Distillery; Spango Valley development site; and Drumfrochar Road development site, before a well-earned refreshment at the spectacularly-refurbished Custom House.

Above - The SGF members take in the magnificent Long Room at the £5m redeveloped Custom House in Greenock 

SGF Chief Executive Pete Cheema said of the tour:

“The energy and passion that is going into the redevelopment of Inverclyde is fascinating to see. We would like to think everyone at Riverside Inverclyde for hosting our annual study tour; thanks to their outstanding support the day was a great success . Our members were highly impressed with the scale of the regeneration activity and business development being undertaken - there are undoubtedly retail investment opportunities for our members to pursue and I think all delegates enjoyed the experience.”

Ri's Andrew Bowman said:

"We were delighted to welcome the members of the Scottish Grocers Federation to Inverclyde to share some of the regeneration acheivements to date. To be able to showcase a fantastic Inverclyde brand in Golden Casket as well as future projects at Ardgowan Distillery and James Watt Dock Marina gives a great indication of the varied opportunities available in Inverclyde currently. We'd like to thank Pete Cheema, John Lee and Phil Prentice for their help in bringing SGF to Inverclyde and as well as Crawford Rae, Martin McAdam, Graeme Galbraith and all of the other local businesses that supported the visit.  Ri is working towards welcoming further investment tours to Inverclyde to consider the investment opportunities that are available."  

Above L-R - Ri's Head of Business Investment; Andrew Bowman, SGF Chief Executive; Pete Cheema, Ri's Chief Executive; Fiona Maguire and SGF President; Dennis Williams.  

Above - Graeme Galbraith of James Watt Dock Marina talks about the expansion plans for Greenock

Above - Martin McAdam of Ardgowan Distillery talks through the plans for the Inverkip site

Above - Ri's Andrew Bowman gives an overview on the regeneration in Inverclyde over the past 10 years

Above - Delegates enjoy a tour of the Golden Casket/Buchanan's factory in Greenock

Above - Cate McGeachy (Buchanan's) and Carly Rae-Fulton (Millions) give delgates a tour of the factory

This article was written by Findlay Stein and published on 24 October 2017: https://www.slrmag.co.uk/sgf-study-tour-inverclyde/

All photos courtesy of Mike Wilkinson: https://mike-wilkinson.photoshelter.com/

To learn more about the Scottish Grocers Federation visit: http://www.scottishshop.org.uk/

To learn more about investment opportunities in Inverclyde visit: http://www.riversideinverclyde.com/investing-in-inverclyde.html

For further information on investment tours in Inverclyde please contact Andrew Bowman at: andrewb@riversideinverclyde.com

Published: 24 January 2018