Thistles launches competition to win free retail space

One business will be given a retail unit in the city centre shopping mall to operate from free of charge for a three-month period ~

Open to businesses across Stirling and Forth Valley, the initiative falls under the centre’s new #ThistlesHelps campaign ~

Thursday 10th June 2021

Thistles shopping centre in Stirling has launched a new initiative, #ThistlesHelps, aimed at helping the local community in its recovery post Covid 19. The first offering under the new scheme is the centre giving one emerging business from Stirling or Forth Valley the opportunity to take ownership of a retail unit within the centre completely free of charge, for a three-month period.

With the aim of helping a local business to grow after a difficult period for many, this will be the first contribution from the centre’s #ThistlesHelps campaign which will continue throughout the year with various offerings aimed at helping the local community. Another initiative within the scheme will see the Thistles team volunteer a minimum of 80 hours to worthwhile causes in Stirling during 2021.

Supported by Go Forth Stirling, the lucky winning business will be given a 1,000 sq ft unit to operate from completely free of charge for three months, with all rent and utility charges covered.

Applications are welcomed from any and all emerging businesses in the Stirling and Forth Valley area looking for premises to aid them in their recovery and growth following the pandemic.

Go Forth will also be providing the winning business with access to free training, a shop front grant scheme to aid with store signage and an eCommerce grant scheme that can be used to support any online activity, such as marketing and SEO development. The winning business will become a member of Stirling BID, receiving access to a number of other benefits.

Reminiscent of a Dragon’s Den style pitch, local businesses who would benefit from the space are being asked to submit their proposed plans and explain why being part of Thistles will help them.

Gary Turnbull, Centre Director at Thistles, said: “There’s no denying that it’s been a difficult year and we really want to do what we can to give back to the local community and help out where possible, which is why we’ve created #ThistlesHelps.

“We have a great unit available and we’re excited to be able to offer it to a local business which otherwise might not have the opportunity to be located in such a high footfall area.

“We welcome bids from emerging businesses across the region but you’ve got to be in it to win it, so get your submissions in and we look forward to looking through them and selecting our new occupant soon.”

The entries will be reviewed by a judging panel who will consider the business concept, the impact being in the centre could have on the business, and what the businesses will be able to do with the space. The judging panel will consist of Gary Turnbull, Centre Director and Claire Barrie, Retail Marketing Manager at Thistles, and Danielle McRorie-Smith, Project Director at Go Forth.

Should the panel be blown away by a number of quality pitches, Go Forth may also be able to support additional entrepreneurs or micro businesses by helping them set up a site in vacant premises in the city centre and negotiate suitable lease terms, and provide a grant as part of its ‘flying start’ initiative. More details of this will be released in due course.

Danielle McRorie-Smith, Project Director at Go Forth, added: “We believe Stirling has an amazing entrepreneurial spirit and are convinced there are business leaders out there ready to launch new ideas and help the city flourish. This is the perfect opportunity for Go Forth and Thistles to join forces, to invest in Stirling by finding new business concepts and provide the tools and support to help their founders make them a reality.

“The most important part of this project is giving entrepreneurs and small businesses the chance to take that vital first step. We know a main concern of new businesses is finding the funding to get started, which is why we’re delighted to be able to offer a helping hand.”

Entrants should submit their bid to no later than Friday 9th July with the winner announced by the end of July. For more information and to view full terms and conditions please visit

Additional quotes

Danielle McRorie-Smith, Project Director at Go Forth, said: “This is about bringing brand new businesses to the streets of Stirling and seeing less empty shops on the high street. It’s about helping our city centre thrive and recover post-pandemic and giving entrepreneurs a flying start to set up shop in Stirling.

“We are ready to offer all the necessary help and support to talented people with a great idea for a new business which will help our city flourish. Do you have a burning ambition to launch a new business in the heart of Stirling, or perhaps you’re already running a start-up from your kitchen table and need a boost to take your business to the next level? If so, then we can help.”

About Thistles

Thistles shopping centre is located in the heart of Stirling and offers locals and visitors to the area the opportunity to shop from a number of well-known high street brands under one roof. Catering to fashion lovers, foodies, beauty fans and gamers alike, Thistles has over 70 shops and cafes to choose from.

Located on Goosecroft Road, Stirling, Thistles is easily accessible by car and public transport and has excellent amenities. Established in 1977 and expanded over the years, Thistles has become a premier shopping destination for those in Stirling and the surrounding areas. For more information visit

About Go Forth

Stirling’s Business Improvement District (BID) is run by Go Forth Stirling and was established in September 2017 following a vote in July 2017 among the city’s traders. The organisation involves businesses working together and investing collectively in local improvements. It gives businesses a unified voice and each trader pays a levy which contributes to a fund to pay for projects and services to directly improve the area’s trading environment.

Go Forth Stirling is run by an office-based team plus a governed non-executive board made up of local businesses and organisations.

For more details visit: