More retailers to shut up shop

H Samuel closed its Berwick store last year

H Samuel closed its Berwick store last year

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Traders have raised fresh fears for the future of Berwick town centre after it emerged that five more shops are set to close.

Three shops on the lower part of Marygate are understood to be closing over the coming months, along with Mountain Warehouse which indicated its closure plans last month.

Two independent outlets on West Street and upper Marygate are also thought to be closing down soon. John Haswell, chairman of Berwick Chamber of Trade, said: “I am really concerned for the future of the town centre.

“The town has already been hit hard by a number of shop closures over the past 12 months.

“Unfortunately, when you look at the way footfall has dropped, it is no real surprise that more are closing down.”

Short-stay parking is due to be introduced on Marygate from April, along with free parking for the rest of the town centre in an effort to revitalise Berwick but there are fears it may already be too late.

“We’ve been telling the county council for years that short-stay parking is needed on Marygate,” said Mr Haswell.

“It was quickly evident after the part-pedestrianisation of the street in 2005 that it was having a negative impact on trade yet nothing was done about it until we put together a 3,000-signature petition to show County Hall how we felt.

“I’m still hopeful that the short-stay parking trial will help town centre businesses but it appears that for some it has come too late.

“At the very least, this trial should have been up and running before Christmas so traders would have received some benefit over the busy Christmas shopping period.”

He believes the closures should also be a message to shop property owners that rent levels need to be addressed.

“Surely it’s no good for the owners to have their properties sitting empty,” reasoned Mr Haswell. “Maybe it’s time they looked at lowering their rents.”

The strict enforcement of parking regulations by traffic wardens may also have had an impact on trade, he adds.

And while the growth of online shopping has undoubtedly hit towns across the country, Mr Haswell is convinced the recent investment at Tweedbank Retail Park has had an impact.

“I’m sure people who used to come into the town centre increasingly go to the retail park,” said Mr Haswell. “It’s an easy place to go and park and spend a couple of hours browsing around the shops.”

There are currently seven empty shops on Marygate.

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