The Island is braced for more job losses, after Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia Group went into administration this week.
As some shops opened their doors for the first time in a month on Wednesday, with the Island back in Tier 1 restrictions after Lockdown Two, the future of Topshop in Newport is in doubt. And the town’s High Street suffered a further loss with the announcement that accessories shop, Claire’s, is to close permanently.
A handwritten note in its window read: ‘We’re sorry to announce that due to unforeseen circumstances we will not be reopening this branch.
“We’d like to thank all our amazing customers throughout the years for your support – we’ve loved serving you! We’ll miss you!’
High street giant, Arcadia, which includes the Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and Burton brands will continue to trade for the time being and no redundancies have been announced yet.
Ian Grabiner, chief executive of Arcadia, said: “The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, including the forced closure of our stores for prolonged periods, has severely impacted on trading across all of our brands.
“Throughout this immensely challenging time our priority has been to protect jobs and preserve the financial stability of the group in the hope that we could ride out the pandemic and come out fighting on the other side.
“Ultimately, however, in the face of the most difficult trading conditions we have ever experienced, the obstacles we encountered were far too severe.”
Newport has been devastated recently with the loss of many big names stores. The Co-op and its Post Office will close early next year and has gone the same way as the likes of Poundstretcher, HMV, Laura Ashley and Monsoon. A recent survey found more than 40 shops were unoccupied in the town.
However, in an effort to support local shops, the ‘Love Your Small Independent Business’ campaign is asking local people to back Island independent businesses.
Norman Arnold, Island representative of the Federation of Small Businesses, believes both the IW Council and landlords should try and address the situation in the town. He said: “It’s disappointing that the Island, like many places around the country, is marginal to these sorts of business decisions, and we are more vulnerable than most.
“When the going gets tough, it’s easier to keep a store in Weymouth going than one on the Island because of the transportation costs.
“Topshop is situated in a lovely building, but someone in an office in London, who doesn’t know the area, the people or the staff, makes these decisions. It would be great going forward to see more local businesses on the High Street, like Hursts, who know the Island and are committed to the Island.
“Why not get more residential homes there? More people living there would help cut down on criminality and anti-social behaviour. Next year could be the opportunity to seize the chance and make something happen.
“Commercial rents and freeholds are scandalous; the prices are so far off the scene it’s insane. These aren’t local people, the landlords are just investment companies who buy up properties on a screen, they don’t care about anything but profit.
“The IW Council should also take a long hard look at how it supports the High Street. It has to encourage people into the town with free parking. People want to have time to walk around, browse and have a cup of coffee. At the moment the Council doesn’t really know where it stands; it needs to open up access for more people.”