LEAMINGTON town centre has a bright future say council chiefs.
The shock news the town’s House of Fraser store on the Parade was among 31 of the company’s branches earmarked for closure came as a further blow to under pressure high street retailers.
Warwick District Council leader Andrew Mobbs said: “First and foremost, we need to reflect on how the 200 employees of Leamington’s House of Fraser are feeling today. The news of the closure and the uncertainty that it brings for them will be a worrying time for them. Mindful of this, we’ve already contacted the store management to offer our full support.
“Of course, it’s disappointing to lose such a long-standing institution given its role at the heart of the town’s retail businesses. Like so many other sectors, retail is facing a fast-paced rate of change which, in order to remain relevant to their customers, requires tough decisions to be made. This isn’t a situation that Leamington is facing alone; it’s sector-wide and, given current estimations, we expect there will be some reduction in retail within town centres. This is being driven by the change in what people want from their high street and accordingly, the Council’s long term strategy focuses on how to ensure our high streets continue to be busy, vibrant places.
“In the shorter term, the picture for Leamington remains buoyant: the number of vacant premises remains below the national average and a significant proportion of premises are snapped up quickly. The recent announcement to welcome Bar + Block to the Parade shows that interest in being here remains high. Working with our partners – including BID Leamington, Leamington Chamber of Trade, Warwickshire County Council and Coventry & Warwickshire Growth Hub – we’ll harness this buoyant environment to ensure that the space continues to play an important, and relevant, role in the town centre. It’s important to us that we see the ground floor space maintained as an active space, even if more innovative schemes are proposed for the upper floors.
“We also have an exciting few months ahead of us in Leamington. We’re hosting the stage finale of the OVO Energy Women’s Tour and, in September, we’ll also be hosting the stage finale of the Men’s Tour of Britain. That’s in addition to the numerous events taking place across Jephson Gardens and the Pump Room Gardens, the Summer of Sound in Regents Court and our own latest initiative, Original Leamington – all of which increase footfall and benefit our retail businesses.”
Some 6,000 jobs are believed to be affected nationwide by the House of Fraser announcement.
Dave Gill, of shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw, said: “This is devastating news for House of Fraser employees. We are receiving calls from loyal and long-serving staff who are extremely worried, including those who work in brand concessions and are not directly employed by House of Fraser. Usdaw is providing the support and advice our members require at this very difficult time and we are urging the company to ensure all staff are treated with dignity and are fully consulted.
“Regrettably House of Fraser do not recognise Usdaw. I have today called on the company to engage in urgent talks, so that we can challenge the business case, investigate what can be done to save jobs and represent our members’ best interests.”
The Leamington House of Fraser store is expected to remain open until January.