CHARLES GRAHAM - Hope that painful closure is JJB turning point

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HOW very sad that the Grand Arcade JJB Sports store has been closed down.

In such a sports-mad town, only a couple of hundred yards from where the very first JJB outlet was opened decades ago and with the national company HQ and distribution centre just up the road at Martland Park, this loss among many is a particularly painful and symbolic one.

The outlet was one of several around the country on a watching brief after a previous round of shop closures announced by the troubled company as it tried to make itself profitable again.

The Wigan store was deemed to be under-performing and while JJB has said little about the closure this week with the loss of several jobs, it seems clear that it had been unable to improve its takings sufficiently as deadline loomed.

The Robin Park outlet survives but it’s not that long since JJB also closed its Leigh branch.

The Grand Arcade shutdown is a blow and a bit of an embarrassment to the company, but it is also damaging to the shopping centre which has prided itself on being virtually full all the way through the economic downturn.

It won’t do TK Maxx and the cafes any good having an empty unit next door either and a new and impressive tenant is rapidly needed for this large first floor space.

Meanwhile JJB, whose presence on the UK retail scene is much diminished since its late 1990s peak, will be trusting that its latest measures will put it in better shape to ride out further economic challenges and keep it competitive in a very tough retail market.

Its workforce and the rest of Wigan will be hoping so too.