Recession hits as shops close and others are looking shaky

PUBLISHED: 19:00 25 January 2012

The shoe store closed this week

The shoe store closed this week

Archant

THE vitality of Weston High Street could be at risk after two major retailers shut their doors last week and it was announced that several others are under threat.

Clarks shoe store and Priceless Shoes made 15 staff redundant between them when they closed last week.

Their demise brings the total number of vacant units in Weston town centre to 94 - meaning 13.4 per cent of business premises are empty.

Peacocks and Bonmarché could also be under threat after parent group The Peacock Group entered administration.

Past Times, a retro gift retailer in the Sovereign Shopping Centre, could also be at risk after the chain went into administration.

The Arcadia Group - which owns Topshop, BHS, Evans and Dorothy Perkins - is looking to sell about 250 stores nationally, which could include its Weston branches, although no announcement has yet been made.

Shoppers reacted with dismay when the Mercury took to the streets last week.

Andrea Phillips, of Clifton Road, Weston, said: “Weston is losing its heart. We need some more individual shops and some investment. I think it would be a real loss if Peacocks closed. We need some average priced clothes shops for average people, we can’t all afford to go to John Lewis.”

Chamber of Trade president Gail Parsons described the news as ‘a real blow’ and said the onus is now on shop owners to try to bring in new tenants, a view backed by town centre manager Steve Townsend.

Ms Parsons said: “Owners need to really roll up their sleeves and work hard to make it attractive for new businesses to take their place.

“With many shops going we now have a tipping point. I don’t want to use the term ‘ghost town’ because it’s just too scary.

“It’s not going to be very attractive to incoming businesses here and it could contribute to the town’s demise.”

She stressed the situation is a reflection of national trends and Weston traders and residents were not to blame.

She appealed to Weston business owners to support the Weston package of road improvements to help boost future trade.

Shopper Sheila Harding, of Maltlands in Locking Castle, said: “I’m a bit disturbed by the situation. We need these shops and working class people need these jobs.

“I don’t like shops closing and it would be devastating if they did.”

Long term resident Peter Hatton, of Severn Road, Weston, said: “I’ve lived here since 1956 and I remember when Weston was the jewel in the crown of Avon.

“These stores closing is bad news for the town because it won’t attract people any more.”

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