The IW Council must have a clear vision for the future of Newport as the closure of Topshop and Topman was confirmed this week, says a leading business representative.
Online fashion retailer Asos has bought the Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge and HIIT brands from failed retail group, Arcadia, in a deal worth £295m.
Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia group fell into administration in November last year, casting doubt over the future of its brands and 13,000 jobs. But while Asos is acquiring the stock and the brands, it is not taking on the stores.
A note in the window of Topshop, where 11 staff are believed to have lost their jobs, read: “Katie, Sam and all the team here at Topshop, Topman, Isle of Wight would like to say a massive heartfelt thank you to all of you for your custom and friendship over the years. Stay safe, best wishes and warmest regards.”
And Norman Arnold, Island representative of the Federation of Small Businesses, says now is the time for the IW Council to address the situation in a town where there are now more than 40 unoccupied shops. He said: “The IW Council needs to come up with a clear vision to see how Newport is going to move forward. They need to use planning and incentives and a proper plan of action.
“Anyone thinking of standing in the council elections must realise they have a big job ahead. We need people who understand business and who are prepared to stick their head above the parapet.
“Newport has already lost so many big stores – Poundstretcher, HMV, Laura Ashley, Monsoon, the Co-Op and even our main Post Office. Now Topshop has gone.
“Local businesses are struggling and there is a lot of talk about changing the high street but how many coffee shops do you need, no matter how good they are? We have to sort out things now; we can’t have a timeline looking two years ahead because there will be so many boarded up shops in Newport and that will be disastrous.
“The Council faces a steep loss in business rates and landlords a steep decline in rent. If property prices plummet it will be harder and harder for new businesses to lend from the banks. This is why we need an action plan. Business people on the Island will back and support anything which will move things on forward.”