Massive blow to town's high street as family retail store announces closure
PUBLISHED: 10:16 22 March 2019 | UPDATED: 13:56 22 March 2019
A prestigious menswear retailer is set to shut its doors in Lowestoft after 50 years of trading.
Having been a much-loved feature of the town centre for decades, Coes of Lowestoft will close in early May.
Waveney MP Peter Aldous said it is a “massive blow” to the high street – coming just weeks after Claire’s and The Body Shop closed in Lowestoft town centre and Beales department store announced it will close in April.
The family retail chain, which also has branches in Felixstowe, Maldon and Ipswich as well as associated shops and online shopping, blamed winter disruptions from emergency roadworks, infrastruture and accessibility issues.
Peter Hubka, Coes director, said: “Having traded in Lowestoft for 50 years it is with great regret that we are announcing the permanent closure of our Lowestoft branch early in May.”
Coes – based at The Old Clapham Arms in Bevan Street East – will be closing temporarily at 5.30pm on March 23 to prepare for their closing down sale, which starts on April 5.
As well as clearing stock from their Lowestoft shop, they will also bring stock in from all their shops and warehouse – featuring a range of menswear, as well as selected lines from their womenswear and sports departments.
Mr Hubka said: “This is our largest sale ever in Lowestoft and with reductions up to 75 per cent off we intend to depart the town on a high note.
“We thank our customers for their support and business over the past 50 years and hope they will continue to shop with us in Ipswich, or online.
“In recent years there have been too many obstacles to trading, mainly in the form of utility work disrupting traffic at key periods of trade – in the lead up to Christmas for example.
“There is no question in my mind that external factors are not helping most businesses today, but it seems that Lowestoft has more infrastructure problems than most and every time we build trade back up, a new utility works comes along and affects trade.
“The current number of shops closing in Lowestoft I believe confirms this.
“We appreciate these works must be undertaken, but the length and timings are the issue – it just puts people off travelling to the town.”
Anglian Water response
Work to repair a collapsed sewer on a major through-road in Lowestoft was completed in the New Year – more than 13 weeks after the emergency works began.
Anglian Water began the emergency work to repair a damaged sewer on Station Square in Lowestoft on October 1, with it scheduled to run for about five weeks.
But after the water company found a larger section of collapsed pipework, it meant the works continued until January. Addressing the concerns raised, an Anglian Water spokesman said: “We hate disrupting local residents, businesses and road users, if we could make repairs and lay pipes without digging up the road surface, we absolutely would.
“Our teams worked extended hours and weekends to make the repairs to the collapsed sewer on Station Square, as quickly as possible.
“This work was essential to ensure local residents could continue to use their toilets and washing machines as normal.
“We’re sorry for any disruption caused and would like to thank local customers for their patience while the repairs were completed.”
‘Hard decision to close’
Peter Hubka, Coes director, said: “Looking to the longer term Lowestoft should have a brighter future, as investment in the area increases and hopefully road access will improve due to investment in the new crossing, but right now that seems a way off and there needs to be more done with regards to looking after the town right now.
“Keener parking prices would be a step in the right direction.
“Although Coes has its own car park the town itself needs greater footfall overall and more competition.
“Bearing in mind Coes have always looked at the long term picture, we assessed various scenarios and ultimately came to the hard decision to close our Lowestoft branch, which is particularly sad for the staff and for many of our customers.
“The reality is that we have invested in both our business and marketing locally and achieved good growth, but then something major happens with regard to access and the sales go down.
“Over recent years Lowestoft Vision and Peter Aldous have been particularly vocal and understanding of the issues that businesses are suffering in the town and we thank them for their support.”
Waveney MP Peter Aldous reaction
Waveney MP Peter Aldous said: “It is a massive blow.
“This is their 50th year, and putting it into context Coes have been the premier clotheswear retailer and men’s outfitter in Suffolk for a very, very long time.
“They have been trading in Lowestoft for 50 years and for them to have made this very hard decision it is a big blow.
“Coes, in my experience, are so good at dressing a town – it is very sad that they will not be able to do that in Lowestoft after May.
“There were issues around accessibility during the emergency works before Christmas.
“While the traffic flow was better, nevertheless its an obstacle for people wanting to get into town – it does have a knock-on effect to the high street.
“Putting this into context in recent months we have seen the loss of a number of retailers in the town centre.
“We have our own unique Suffolk store now shutting, it does really focus the attention on the state of high streets across the country.”
Lowestoft Vision reaction
Lowestoft Vision, which is part of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, represents retailers in the town centre through a Business Improvement District (BID).
Chairman of the Lowestoft Vision business improvement district (BID), Dan Poitras, said: “Lowestoft Vision is very saddened to hear about the close of Coe’s – a much loved feature of the town centre for decades.
“This news, alongside the recent closure of other stores, makes Peter Hubka’s analysis so important for everyone interested in Lowestoft’s future to listen to and reflect upon.
“In particular, the timing and frequency of roadworks and the cost of car parking needs to be urgently addressed and much better co-ordinated.
“Lowestoft Vision will continue to actively promote the town and put on events designed to increase footfall, but local councils and utility companies do need to step up and start minimising the negative and maximising the positive impacts of what they do.”
Coes was established in 1928 in Ipswich by William David Coe with a £100 investment.
Over the past 90 years the family have carried on the business and developed the portfolio of shops and today the group has several Coes branded shops across East Anglia, plus two other businesses called Golding and Goddards.
They also have several Internet based stores that are thriving, including Coes.co.uk
Coes has been operating in Lowestoft since 1969 – with 2019 being their 50th anniversary of trading in Lowestoft.
Originally located in a smaller shop on Bevan Street, Coes relocated to the Old Clapham Arms in 2005.
Business in Lowestoft had been thriving and the smaller shop in Bevan Street had become too small for the growing trade.
The investment in the Old Clapham Arms, which had been run down and unoccupied for many years, proved a positive move and justified the £400,000 investment.
In 2014 there was a major refit of the premises, as the family invested a further £50,000.
The state of Lowestoft high street
The former Poundstretcher shop on the corner of London Road North and Milton Road East in Lowestoft has been empty for more than two years after it expanded and relocated to the former QD Stores building in October 2016.
Argos closed its Lowestoft branch on London Road North in July 2016 and the store remains empty.
Lowestoft’s Post Office closed in September 2016 and relocated into nearby WH Smith, leaving the iconic building empty.
In October 2018, Lowestoft Electrical announced their departure after 65 years.
Tuttles Corner closed unexpectedly in October 2018, citing high business rates as the reason.
In January, Beales announced the Lowestoft department store will close in April 2019, with the store to be based at Palmers instead.
RopeWorks in Battery Green Road closed its doors for the final time at the end of January 2019.
Claire’s left London Road North after their lease expired on February 2, 2019.
The Body Shop announced they would not be renewing their lease, and they left London Road North on March 9, 2019.