Ipswich: High street blues as Oasis, Warehouse and Miss Selfridge close main stores in town

IPSWICH: The future of Ipswich’s high street today looks bleak with the closure of three of the biggest fashion retailers.

Oasis has already closed its doors in Tavern Street last week, while Miss Selfridge and Warehouse are preparing to cease trading in their shared Tower Ramparts unit this week.

Meanwhile it is understood staff at Dorothy Perkins have been told of plans to close in December but a spokesman for owners, the Arcadia Group Ltd, said a decision has yet to be confirmed.

The Evening Star has also learnt that the Tower Ramparts shopping centre – which has changed hands on a number of occasions since opening in 1986 – has been put up for sale by owners Kandahar Real Estate.

The Oasis, Miss Selfridge and Warehouse brands will still be provided in the town through concessions in Debenhams and BHS as part of a national strategy by the retailers – all owned by Arcadia Group Ltd and Aurora Fashions.

While the news will come as a blow to Ipswich’s retail sector, town centre management group Ipswich Central said their departure will pave the way for new national brands to snap up the prime Tavern Street locations.

Amanda Hill, of Kandahar Real Estate, which owns Tower Ramparts, confirmed the centre has been on the market for the “last couple of months”.

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She said: “We have got a few tenants leaving due to their leases expiring. The reality of the situation is that we have the scheme (centre) on the market at the moment.

“We have got some positive interest in the centre.”

Tower Ramparts manager Mike Sorhaindo quashed rumours the centre was closing.

“As far as Tower Ramparts is concerned it is a case of business as usual,” he said.

“The departure of Miss Selfridge and Warehouse is unfortunate. They are casualties of the current economic climate and reflects a lot of big retailers’ decisions to consolidate their brands.”

But he said the exit of the two brands will give the centre a “positive” opportunity to attract another big name.

“What it does do is present us with an opportunity at the front of the centre. There is retail demand for shop fronts on Tavern Street,” he said.

“I am fairly confident we will find a replacement, we are talking to retailers at the moment.”

Richard Turner, property surveyor for Ipswich Central and Ipswich Borough Council, said the shops were following a national trend to reduce property costs by “releasing freestanding units and not duplicating on their offerings within the same town by making full use of their concession operations”.

He added: “We should view this as an opportunity for Ipswich. The availability of modern retail units in this highly sought-after prime location means that expanding brands such as SuperDry who have been looking for space in the prime pitch may now have an opportunity to be able to gain their desired representation in the town.”

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer said while it is sad to see major brands “downsizing” in the town, it is not all bad news.

He said the recent addition to the town centre in the last year, including Office, White Stuff and Fat Face, as a positive sign.

“The news is mixed,” he said. “The key new thing now is to get the Link development on the Evening Star site, off the ground.

“It will offer the kind of retail spaces national brands want to use and that don’t exist in Ipswich at the moment.”

Lisa Pierce, of Arcadia Group Ltd which also owns Miss Selfridge, confirmed the store’s closure.

A spokeswoman for Aurora Fashions, owners of Oasis and Warehouse, said the closures of both stores in the town was part of their strategy to “focus on key locations”.

n What do you think of these shops closing? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or you can e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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