BLEAK statistics show that Inverclyde has lost a quarter of its retail workforce and recorded the second highest reduction in shops across Scotland.

The figures, released by the Scottish Retail Consortium, show that between 2008 and 2015 the district lost a quarter of its shop staff - the second highest drop in Scotland, just behind Falkirk.

During the same period of time, Inverclyde also recorded the second highest reduction in shop numbers at 14 per cent, again just behind Falkirk.

In addition, Inverclyde also recorded the worst retail turnover - down almost half at 48 per cent.

Despite this, Gavin McDonagh, who is the president of Inverclyde Chamber of Commerce, insists he remains positive about the area's retail outlook.

Mr McDonagh said: "Inverclyde, sadly, in line with the rest of the UK, has experienced the decline in retail sales with the migration over to online sales.

"However, locally many steps have been taken, for example with Port Glasgow town centre and the new retail opportunities there, the public consultation on improvements to Greenock town centre and in Gourock we have the top town in Scotland for independent traders.

“The report covers the period up to 2015 and we hope with the new retail outlets, particularly in Port Glasgow, we will see a reverse in the decline of retail employment.

"As ever, the best thing we can do is support Inverclyde’s retail business by shopping locally.”

Currently there are approximately 10 empty shop units in West Blackhall Street alone, a situation which would previously have been unthinkable.

Ewan MacDonald-Russell of the Scottish Retail Consortium is calling for more action to be taken to help struggling high streets.

He said: “This analysis demonstrates how retail change is affecting the whole of Scotland, but in very different ways.

“For some communities this is leading to new opportunities; with investment in new jobs, more productive and interesting work, and different business models.

“However, we are seeing shop closures and job losses which will reduce retail involvement in some town centres.

"That change is inevitable, and presents a real challenge to government and local authorities.

"They have the power to influence the pace of change, buying time for new investment and developments, but only if the scale of this transformation is recognised, and swift and coordinated action taken.”

In total, 16,000 retail jobs were lost across Scotland with just five out of 32 local authorities reporting an increase.

In response to the figures, the Scottish Government said: “We want local authorities to do all they can to support businesses in their high streets, including giving full consideration to any request to use their powers to create local business rates relief or using any additional income they generate through the Business Rates Incentivisation Scheme.”