Friday, February 6, 2015

News: Independents rise in Rotherham as bakery chains fall flat

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It is a mixed picture in Rotherham town centre where independent retailers are expanding but bigger names are closing outlets.

This week saw Cooplands, the Doncaster-based artisan bakery undergo a pre-pack administration with the loss of 300 jobs. Joint administrators, Adrian Berry and Daniel Butters, partners of Deloitte had been working on a deal for some time and restructuring specialists, Resolve, announced that they had acquired half of the stores and the entire mobile sandwich "Bapvan" fleet, preserving over 260 jobs across the local area.

The deal means that 39 stores will close along with the head office in Doncaster, resulting in the overall loss of 303 jobs.

A published list from the administrators shows that the Cooplands unit in Rotherham Interchange is set to remain open but the store in All Saints' Square looks set to close.

Out of the town centre, stores in Brinsworth, Herringthorpe and Dinnington are set to stay open with stores at Maltby and Stag set to close.

Resolve said in a statement: "ReSolve are pleased to announce the purchase of the majority of Cooplands (Doncaster) stores preserving over 260 jobs across the local area.

"Cooplands will continue to focus on providing great customer service and the best quality products at competitive prices. To celebrate the purchase, Cooplands will be introducing some great new offers from tomorrow.

"We would like to thank our loyal customers and staff for their support during Cooplands' 83 year history and your local bakery looks forward to serving you for many years to come."

The news follows on from national bakery chain, Greggs, closing its large cafe unit in the Old Town Hall in Rotherham town centre (pictured). A spokesperson for the chain, which has around 1,700 stores nationwide including two others in Rotherham town centre, said: "We do regularly review our shops and the places where they're situated. On completing our latest review, we made the decision to close this one."

Rotherham is a "Portas Pilot" using government and private sector funding to support retail which has helped to reduce vacancy rates, boost footfall and increase shopper satisfaction. A focus has been on creating a different and vibrant retail offer by supporting independent traders.

In 2009, Yella Brick Road was the first retailer to move into a unit in the refurbished Grade II-listed Imperial Buildings at the top of the High Street. Five years later, the arcade is thriving with independent retailers including boutiques, a cafe, an old-fashioned sweet shop and arts space.

Benefiting from an innovative grants scheme, then just funded by the Council, the fashion store secured financial help with fit out costs and up to 50% of the rental costs in year one and 25% in year two. The store's success saw the creation of "Things That Boys Like" in 2013. The sister store (brother store may be more appropriate) brought men's clothing, gadgets and gifts to the revamped High Street.
Now, the two stores are set to combine and move into a larger unit on the High Street as trader turned property developer, Chris Hamby continues with his heritage-led regeneration of empty properties.

Danii Paston, owner of Yella Brick Road said in post on Facebook: "We will be joining forces with our brother shop Things That Boys Like. Initially we will be situated in the existing 21 High Street shop, before moving to huge premises in April right next door (the current Hambys shoe shop).

"We've been in our Imperial Buildings shop for five years now and it's time to expand. It's going to be wrench to leave our fabulous little shop, but in order to offer all the ranges we want to offer, we need more space."

Grants for new and existing traders continue to be approved. One example is market traders, John Norris Greengrocers taking space in the former JJB Sports unit in the Old Town Hall.

Last year, the retail vacancy rate in Rotherham town centre rose for the first time since 2010, according to research by retail experts at commercial real estate advisers, Colliers International. The vacancy rate (the percentage of empty ground floor units in the retail centre) in Rotherham has been as low as 6.1% in 2006, rising to 28.2% in 2010. Colliers measured a rate of 19.7% for April 2014, up from 18.1% in October 2013.

Rotherham Council's own figures for 2014 had 93 out of 412 town centre units vacant, giving a rate of 22.6%, up from 20% the previous year and in 2010. Council analysis also shows the vacancy rate in terms of floorspace, where 18.5% of the total floorspace was vacant for 2014, the first annual increase since 2010.

Rotherham town centre website
Yella Brick Road website

Images: Tom Austen / Yella Brick Road / Facebook

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