Arndale team positive despite more closures

Vacant shop in Eastbourne Arndale Centre. October 13th 2011 E41122M
Vacant shop in Eastbourne Arndale Centre. October 13th 2011 E41122M

MORE shops have shut their doors this week and others announced they are struggling in the economic climate.

H Jewellers was the latest to join a number of empty units in the Arndale Centre this week.

It seemed to close suddenly with a sign on the door saying it was down to ’unforeseen circumstances’.

The shopping centre’s Tie Rack is also closing this Wednesday after the firm, which is still trading nationally, decided not to renew its lease in Eastbourne.

These latest Arndale Centre stores closures join a number of empty premises in the town’s shopping centre.

The empty stores were occupied by Sussex Stationers, Solar Store, Mothercare, Mad House, Appy Feet, seasonal shop Calendar Club, La Senza, The Sony Centre, Hawkins Bazaar and the stores which used to house Game, Menkind and Carphone Warehouse, which have all now relocated to other units in the town.

On top of the closures, clothing chain Bon Marche has admitted it is struggling but it is hoped a buyer is close to being found.

There is a Bon Marche in the Arndale Centre but the brand is owned by the Peacocks Group, which has gone into administration, so the future of the Peacocks store in Langney Shopping Centre is also uncertain.

Arndale Centre management remain positive and are pushing ahead with the extension plan. It was announced last week that Sports Direct will be moving to a bigger unit in the centre which was once home to Mothercare and Mad House.

Arndale Centre management are also in talks with a major fashion retailer and the Jazz hairdressing group is looking to open a salon in one of the vacant units.

Simon Russian, senior fund manager at Legal & General Property, said, “We are in difficult economic times nationwide.

“Shop closures are not unique to Eastbourne. It is a situation that we are facing across the country’s high streets.

“The Performance Retail Limited Partnership is working very hard to actively manage vacant units.

“We have interest from national retailers who want to come to Eastbourne but cannot at present because we do not have the right kind of units for them.

“Our proposal for a £65 million extension to the Arndale Centre is crucial to the future success of Eastbourne both in terms of the improvements to the shopping offer but also the wider benefits to the town centre as a whole.”

Clothing store Twenty One, in the pedestrianised area of Terminus Road, also shut this week and the future of Blacks, Millets and Past Times are also in doubt.

Black and Millets has been bought by JD Sports in a £20 million deal, but there are plans to close under-performing stores and the sportswear company has not yet said which shops will close.

Town MP Stephen Lloyd, vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary group for town centres, was the co-signatory to a motion which was debated in Parliament about the future of high streets and town centres in light of the Portas Review.

The debate attracted a large number of MPs from all parties who are concerned about the future of town centres.

Mr Lloyd spoke passionately about their importance, not only as a place for trade and business, but also somewhere families and friends should be able to relax and enjoy themselves.

He also spoke about the bureaucratic hurdles he and Eastbourne Borough Council have faced in introducing a street market to Eastbourne’s Terminus Road, and how progress was being made.

The MP started planning for the street market soon after the General Election in 2010 and it has now been passed by the council and is expected to be up and running by the summer.

Stephen said, “I am totally committed to our town centre, not only because of the importance to jobs and employment, but also because I feel it should be a reflection of a town’s character.”