Hastings shops saved from closure

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TWO town centre shops have been saved from closure.

Clothing store Peacocks, Queens Road, and Bonmarché, in Priory Meadow, looked as if they would cease trading after they went into administration in January.

Bonmarche, Hastings. 18/1/12

Bonmarche, Hastings. 18/1/12

But clothing chain Edinburgh Woollen Mill has bought 338 of the Cardiff-based company’s stores, including the Hastings branch, saving 19 jobs there.

Bonmarché, which was owned by the same company, the Peacock Group, has also been bought by private equity firm Sun European Partners.

It closed 160 of the clothing chain’s shops but the Priory Meadow branch will remain open, as one of 230 Bonmarche stores to be saved.

The good news will come as a sigh of relief for business leaders and traders in the town as Hastings trade has been dealt a series of blows since Christmas.

Clothing chain Next, which employed around 20 staff, closed its Priory Meadow shop on December 29 last year.

Past Times shut its doors at the start of January after the company, which specialised in retro-themed gifts, became the latest victim of the recession.

The Early Learning Centre’s Priory Meadow store also closed last month.

Rob Woods, town centre manager, said: “It is excellent news that Peacocks and Bonmarché are staying, as we always believed that they would remain open. Both stores are highly profitable and it would have been devastating if they had closed down.”

John Hough, manager of Priory Meadow Shopping Centre, said the outlook of the town’s retail industry now looked positive.

He said: “I’m optimistic about the current situation. We have seen shops that could have been lost from the town not just staying open, but in many instances reinvesting in refurbishments and improvements to their retail offer.

“We have also seen new openings and there is a real prospect of new names to the centre in the future.

“We were delighted to be able to welcome Pizza Express last month to Priory Meadow.

“The restaurant has proved to be very popular with our customers, and is trading well ahead of expectations.”

He said existing stores, such as Blue Inc and Carphone Warehouse, had recently reopened after spending money on extensive refurbishment and expansion of their branches.

Mr Hough said a deal is currently being progressed by Priory Meadow with Top Shop, Evans, Dorothy Perkins and Burtons in relation to their future at the centre.

All four chains are owned by the Arcadia Group.

Mr Hough added: “It was announced last year by Arcadia that the retailer expected to see wide-ranging store closures as lease renewals came about in the future.

“The expectation is that the four stores will continue to trade as normal within Priory Meadow.”

Store Twenty One in Priory Meadow is advertising its closure due to its lease expiring. But a deal is currently on the table and Mr Hough said the shop is expected to remain.

He said even though the Next, Early Learning Centre and JJB Sports units remained empty, Priory Meadow’s management were ‘actively’ marketing the units to potential retailers.

Mr Hough added: “In seeking prospective tenants, certainly for the longer term, we are focusing on quality retailers which will enhance the overall offer of the shopping centre and Hastings as a whole.

“We see this as an opportunity to improve the choice and range of shops in the scheme and we are determined to achieve this. It is key to our competitiveness in the current and future market place.”