Double High Street blow

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WIGAN is bracing itself for major changes on the high street as two retailing giants unveiled plans to close stores.

Workers at Wigan’s branches of Thorntons, the chocolate makers, and carpet retalier Carpetright are today facing an uncertain future after both firms announced they would be forced to shut dozens of outlets.

Thorntons, which has stores in The Galleries, Wigan, Bradshawgate, Leigh, and an outlet in Birthdays, in Robin Park, said it will exit at least 120 shops over the next three years as their leases expire, while considering the future of an additional 60 stores over the same period.

It said it hoped to replace them with franchised stores “in the majority of locations”. The news means at least 750 job losses between now and 2014, leaving staff in Wigan with a nervous wait to discover which stores face the chop.

Jonathan Hart, chief executive of Thorntons, said: “Our goal is to refocus the business across all channels, and seek to deliver industry competitive results over the next three to five years. Although we see the prospect of weakness in High Street footfall and consumer sentiment continuing, I am confident that this strategy is right.”

Britain’s leading floor coverings retailer, Carpetright, which has an outlet at Robin Park, said it would be cutting stores after profits fell by 70 per cent.

Lord Harris of Peckham, Carpetright’s chairman and chief executive, said: “With leases on 94 stores in our estate due to expire in the next five years, we have ample opportunity to reshape the portfolio, reduce the size of store footprints and lower our rent roll.”

The announcement is the latest blow to the high street. Women’s retailer Jane Norman called in the administrators this week while HMV, Game and JJB Sports are also cutting stores. Discount store TJ Hughes has reportedly filed a notice of intention to appoint an administrator.