I have often wondered how native St Andreans respond to life in our little town, benefit from the few facilities provided in St Andrews. Though the town is relatively well-suited to student needs, how does the dearth of affordable products affect the so-called “locals”?
This week I discovered that two new shops were opening up on South Street; a late night fast food restaurant and a ‘luxury chocolatier’, two establishments clearly aimed at the unique demographic of the St Andrews student body. A variety of takeaways (which of the three Indian places should we sample tonight?), gourmet restaurants and any number of cute, student-oriented coffee shops are all readily available on our three streets. Even that last bastion of the “local” drinking establishments, The Keys, had a Freshers’ week drinks list this year. These developments have left me wondering where the ‘other people’ go – other than Greggs, there are few if any stores not monopolized by or singularly marketed towards students.
Last semester our town lost Argos forever – I cannot help feeling that instead of luxury chocolates, the year-long residents of the town would benefit from another provider of household goods, small electrical goods, or even an affordable clothing shop. Though students often complain of being denied housing in the center of town, locals could make a viable case that they are being deprived of essential services – an example of this would be the lack of affordable children’s clothing stores. Any parent who would like to clothe their child in anything other than Fatface or a Junior-Saints sport t-shirt must travel out to Cupar at the very least. One kebab shop for a clothing shop would not make much of a difference to students, and would serve as a huge boon to the local population.
I know what people will say to this criticism of the St Andrews shopping situation; that it is only a small town, that the student population makes up a significant and that a town so dominated by a University could not possibly appeal to all commercial tastes. Many of the shops cater to the “St Andrews” stereotype; there seems to be an assumption that all those living and studying in this town fit the same mould – rich and elitist – where Jack Wills and cashmere jumpers are the relative norm. For many students, these are the odd luxury item, and hardly everyday-wear. Compared to towns with a similar sized shopping area, there is a distinct lack of affordable menswear in the town and despite the plethora of charity shops available, they don’t really manage to compensate.
There is definite division between town and gown – luxury chocolate shops, multiple delicatessens and Persian rugs are not the first shopping destinations on the minds of many Fifers, both in St Andrews and the surrounding villages, whereas all are host to a multitude of student customers. While university students are essential to St Andrews’ local economy, I believe that the ratio of practical to ‘posh’ shops is on the tipping point. It seems wrong that some of the bare essentials in this area of Fife are simply not to be found because of a cohort of students, which changes every year.
I would never go as far to suggest a total overhaul of the town shopping area, but I do feel that most stores are geared towards a certain perception of the ‘St Andrews student’. The replacement of the odd chip shop or delicatessen with a more useful alternative would be a welcome change in my mind.