The future of town centre shops hangs in the balance

THE long-term future of four major retailers in Weston town centre is in the balance following a slump in profits for one of the UK’s largest business groups.

Arcadia Group Ltd announced 250 shops would not have their leases renewed after recording a drop in sales of nearly two per cent.

Dorothy Perkins, BHS and Topshop in High Street and Evans in the Sovereign Shopping Centre are all owned by the group.

But staff are continuing to remain upbeat while they wait to hear definitive news on their own stores.

One woman working at Dorothy Perkins said businesses were inevitably finding the recession difficult.

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She said: “I think everyone is struggling but I haven’t heard anything from head office and until I hear anything it isn’t worth being worried about.”

One employee at Evans said she was confident the chain would be unaffected by the latest cull and believed Arcadia would continue to exploit opportunities abroad.

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She said: “It isn’t us that is being affected currently. We are alright, but in a year’s time or so, who knows? It is quite bad.”

In a BBC interview last week, Arcadia owner Sir Philip Green said the mild winter was partly responsible for the slump, with shoppers not stocking up on warm clothing.

A spokesman for the group said a final decision on closures had not yet been made. She said: “Over the next two to three years about 480 leases across the portfolio of more than 2,500 UK and Eire stores are due to expire.

“The probability is that we will close about 250 of these stores. We are obviously continually looking at our store portfolio, and there are plans for the opening of new stores and refurbishments in addition to closing some stores when leases expire.”

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