Fears for Newcastle as town centre shops prepare to shut
TWO major fashion retailers are set to close next month – sparking fresh fears over the future of a struggling town centre.
Arcadia-owned stores Burton and Evans will move out of their units in Newcastle’s Ironmarket in September when their current lease expires.
And traders and shoppers say the news is a blow to the town centre, which has seen the closure of high street names including Woolworths and Poundstretcher in recent years.
Carl Evans, president of Newcastle Chamber of Trade and Enterprise, who also runs Cartridge World in George Street, said: “It is very disappointing that the chain stores are deciding to pull out of small towns, because when shops close it makes it more difficult to attract new businesses.
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“There are a lot of things that we need to do to make it easier to shop in the town centre, and it seems it is now the time to assess the role of the town centre.
“There are a lot of independent traders in Newcastle which still make the town an attractive place to visit, and I hope that this is enough to ensure the future of Newcastle.”
Newcastle MP Paul Farrelly has written to the owner of the Arcadia Group, Sir Philip Green, owner of the Arcadia Group, in a last-ditch attempt to save the stores from closure.
Mr Farrelly, pictured below, who bought his first suit from Burton in the 1970s, said: “Newcastle, like lots of places, is struggling and we must pull out all the stops to help our town centre.
“We cannot afford to lose more shops and their closure next month will be a serious blow to shopping facilities in the town.”
Mr Farrelly added: “I understand that some of the staff affected will be redeployed, but others will lose their jobs and that is a tragedy.
“I am sure, though, that they could keep their jobs if other premises can be found in the town centre.
“So I will do all I can to work with the company, the council and Newcastle’s new Town Centre Partnership to find a way forward.”
Newcastle recently submitted two bids to become a ‘Portas Pilot’ town, seeking Government funds to revitalise town centres.
The £1 million-plus fund was established following a review of High Street prospects by retail consultant Mary Portas. However, both bids were unsuccessful.
News of the closures followed Arcadia’s announcement earlier this summer that its pre-tax profits had plummeted from £213.1million last year to £133.1million this year.
Sheila Bryant, aged 73, of Poolfields Close, Poolfields, said: “I think it’s disgusting that another two shops are closing. Newcastle is really going downhill at the moment. There isn’t a supermarket in the town centre any more, so I need to take two buses to go to Sainsbury’s. It makes more sense for me to take the bus into Leek. At least the supermarket is right next to the bus station.
“I go to Nottingham a lot because my sister lives there, and their city centre is always buzzing, day and night.
“I don’t know why Newcastle can’t be the same.”
Arcadia was unavailable to comment.