WIGAN’S flagship Uncle Joe’s Mint Ball emporium is set to close.
The sweet manufacturer’s chiefs said today that it was with regret that the Crompton Street confectionary shop was being shut but the number of customers it has been welcoming has more than halved in the past five years.
They cited numerous reasons for the fall-off in clientele – including the increasing availability of parent company William Santus sweets in other stores and on the internet – and were quick to point out that while the shop has struggled, the rest of the business is booming with sales up 10 per cent.
But co-director John Winnard said he was still conscious that some folk would be disappointed.
He said: “I don’t want the people of Wigan to think we are letting them down, but it has come to a point where we were subsidising the shop so much that we have taken the decision, with regret, to close it.
“Footfall has gone from 6,000 a month to 2,500 a month in the last five years while customers on average are spending the same amount.
“Our products are a lot more widely available on the internet and in other shops these days, including supermarkets, so in some respects we are victims of our own success. Our internet sales have increased 10-fold of late.
“But as far as the shop is concerned you must also factor in the location. Not as many people shop in Crompton Street these days, the focus having switched towards the Grand Arcade and it is difficult to justify paying all the rent.
“The rest of the company, I should add, is doing very well with the latest figures showing a 10 per cent sales increase. It’s just that times, like they are for a lot of people, are changing.”
This will be the first time Santus’s has not had a Wigan retail outlet in the town centre since the very early days.
For generations it had a stall in Wigan Market but then moved to the larger premises on Crompton Street 11 years ago in order to have room to sell merchandise too. There was talk of more shops opening in York and Chester, but over the years, over-the-counter sales at the shop have steadily fallen.
It is due to put up its shutters at the end of July.