Three high street stores leave town

THREE major high street shops are pulling out of Hastings.

Fashion retailers Evans, Dorothy Perkins and Burton, all in Priory Meadow, will cease trading from next Saturday (June 15).

The news comes as a blow to the town centre as all three branches of the national chains have been in Hastings since 1997 and decided to leave as their leases in Priory Meadow came to an end.

It has been a turbulent time for town centre trade since the end of 2011 with several High Street chains going into adminstration and closing down due to the ongoing recession.

In January Blockbuster Video in Queens Road and five people working at Jessops in Priory Meadow lost their jobs when the camera retailer shut.

HMV also went into administration in January but the Priory Meadow store was saved from closure.

Clothing chain Next, which employed around 20 staff, closed its Priory Meadow shop at the end of 2011. Past Times shut its doors at the start of January last year after the company, which specialised in retro-themed gifts, went bust.

The Early Learning Centre’s Priory Meadow store also closed in February last year.

At the same time in 2012 it was also feared clothing store Peacocks, in Queens Road, and Bonmarché, in Priory Meadow, would close after they went into administration. But both stores were eventually bought by new companies.

In March last year GAME and GameStation filed for administration. GAME’s Priory Meadow branch was saved after a new company bought the chain. But GameStation’s shop in Queens Road closed down.

John Hough, manager of Priory Meadow Shopping Centre, said: “Evans, Dorothy Perkins and Burton were tenants on 15-year leases from the opening of Priory Meadow in 1997. Upon renewal of these leases, all three of these shops which are part of the Arcadia Group, entered into a shorter term arrangement by mutual consent so they were at least able to carry on trading for quite some time, and of course the Dorothy Perkins range will continue to be available at BHS.

“There is no doubt that the High Street is changing and we have seen a number of well-known retail chains either entering administration or re-thinking their strategy in the last few years, so of course we are continually looking at other opportunities and options available to us, and discussion with other brands has been ongoing.

“What I can say with regard to these shops is that the team are actively engaging with retail representatives and we are confident that we will attract good quality retailers into this space.”

Priory Meadow currently has four empty units. Mr Hough added that tReds, a fashion footwear retailer, is moving into the unit previously occupied by JJB before the end of this month.

He said: “In spite of the continued economic downturn it’s important to note that there is real interest from the retail fashion sector in terms of the trading opportunity that Priory Meadow and Hastings can offer.

“Since the beginning of April footfall in Priory Meadow has been up on average by 15 per cent most weeks, compared to last year.”

Rob Woods, town centre manager, said it was ‘disappointing’ that Evans, Dorothy Perkins and Burton were leaving but he echoed Mr Hough’s comments on footfall.

He said: “You can look at this as a blow as the three shops have been here since Priory Meadow opened but on the same token in terms of refreshing the town it’s not a blow, as there is potential to bring in new and exciting businesses.

“The town centre is showing signs of real recovery. Over the last six to eight weeks footfall has been higher compared to the equivalent period in 2011 and 2012.

“The town is becoming attractive again for visitors so hopefully we will see more spend as a result.”

Tom Doran, spokesman for the Arcadia Group, confirmed that Evans, Dorothy Perkins and Burton were leaving Hastings.

He said: “We are constantly reviewing our store portfolio across the group, and leases continually expire or come up for renewal. We are always looking at how to shape our store portfolio, investing in flagship stores, and increasing our brands’ presence online. Our click and collect service across the brands is also proving a successful way of helping our customers collect their purchases at a location most convenient to them.

“When leases expire that we do not renew, we endeavour to re-deploy staff affected to another store within the Arcadia Group as much as we can.”