The changing face of retail - which stores have shut and which are under threat in Ipswich?
PUBLISHED: 18:11 23 January 2019 | UPDATED: 17:00 29 January 2019
The retail sector is undergoing a seismic shift that is changing the look and feel of our town centres at a rapid rate. It feels as though each day brings a new onslaught of bad news.
Today, we heard that Santander will be closing branches in Stowmarket, Newmarket and Colchester, Patisserie Valerie is closing a cafe in Chelmsford, and Cotswold Outdoor is undertaking a raft of store closures too.
But it’s not all bleak, as some stores have posted rosier profits and look set to stay in Ipswich.
In some cases, retail chains have moved out and vape shops, beauty bars and independent stores have taken their place. But, as in most towns and cities, landlords seem to be finding it increasingly difficult to fill the empty voids.
We take a look at each shopping area, detailing the changes that have happened and what we can expect could be around the corner when it comes to our national retail chains.
The fate of Patisserie Valerie on the Buttermarket looks secure - for now, at least.
BHS shut down in 2016, and sadly, the building has not yet been filled - despite plans for a mixed restaurant and retail development.
The prospects for New Look, which has a store in the Buttermarket Shopping Centre, are not looking good. The fashion retailer just this week closed its men’s store down in Romford in Essex, and has just handed the reigns over to its creditors in a bid to turn it’s ailing fortunes around.
Retailer Bonmarche recently said that current trading conditions are “worse than during the recession” as it warned that extended Brexit uncertainty is dragging on sales. Shares in the cut-price womenswear chain have tumbled recently by as much as 50%, and there has been speculation that it will close down some stores.
Debenhams is facing a very bleak future right now. It is said to be planning to close a total of 90 stores, although it’s not known yet where those stores will be so there is hope that the Ipswich store will be safe. The embattled chain had already said it will shut around 50 stores over three to five years; now it seems that wasn’t enough to keep the company afloat.
Nearby to Debenhams is M&S, which on Tuesday announced another 17 stores were to close - including the Felixstowe branch.
But the trend for fast fashion shown little signs of abating, as Primark posted a rise in sales of 3% over Christmas. The company does not sell online, but is the UK’s biggest clothing retailer in terms of volume sold.
The Sailmakers/Tavern Street
Inside the Sailmakers shopping centre, HMV has gone into administration and looks likely to shut.
The centre is also home to Top Shop and Top Man, which is owned by Philip Green’s Arcadia Group. Mr Green has reportedly just called in advisors from Deloitte to review his retail empire, which includes Miss Selfridge, Evans, Wallis, Burton and Dorothy Perkins, so store closures of these brands could be imminent.
River Island has just announced it’s closing down all of its stores in the Netherlands and Belgium, and in its most recent financial results for the year to 30 December 2017, operating profit fell by 40% to £80.6m.
However, on the bright side, Sailmakers Shopping Centre bucked all national trends during the festive period, increasing their December sales by 2% on last years figures. More than 660,000 people visited the centre, enough to fill Portman Road stadium five times over, and hopefully the promising footfall will discourage retail owners from closing down stores there.
And Lush, which has a store on Tavern Street, is going from strength to strength right now, having just opened the UK’s first plastic-free cosmetics shop in Manchester.
However, the prospects for nearby Jack Wills look more bleak, as the firm has just hired advisers from auditing firm EY amid speculation it may require a big cash injection.
Poundworld closed down its Tavern Street store last Summer when the firm went bust, and the building still stands empty.
When closing down posters started appearing last month in the windows of Peacocks, we all feared the worst. But a member of staff there explained: “We don’t really know what’s going on - it’s all down to the landlords.”
Like many High Street retailers, Peacocks, which is owned by Edinburgh Woollen Mill, has been trying to renegotiate its rent with its landlords in recent months. It appears to be applying the same tactic in the Edinburgh Woollen Mill Store in Sudbury.
Although GAME has closed its store on Carr Street, it has opened a store on Tavern Street which is remaining open - and nationally, the gaming market shows no signs of abating.
Reflecting buoyancy in the budget store sector, the prospects for B&M Bargains, which has a store on Carr Street, look promising - UK sales rose 4.5pc to £874.5m in the three months to December 28.
On the outskirts of town
RBS Bank has announced that it is shutting down its branch on Princes Street, reflecting a wider trend at the moment for high street banks to shut down their town centre stores.
Office Outlet, on Russell Road, is staying open, but the landlord is now seeking to rent out part of the same building to someone else. Last Summer, Office outlet launched a Company Voluntary Arrangement that involved asking some of its landlords for a three-year rent holiday.
At the Copdock Interchange, Toys R Us shut down last year and has yet to be reoccupied. But Mothercare has confirmed that it is keeping its Ipswich store open, despite closing a string of other stores, including one in Clacton on February 1.