The boss of a family business has made the heart-wrenching decision to close down his shop which has traded in Wigan town centre for more than 50 years.
Chris Bracek, owner of Wallpaper Supplies in Library Street, says he has seen retail in the town deteriorate over several years and wants to get out before he is forced to go into liquidation.
The 50-year-old took over the running of the shop from his dad Max, who died 12 years ago. Mr Bracek Snr bought the business back in the 80s and had been involved since its inception 52 years ago .
Wallpaper Supplies has been a staple retailer in the town centre for the past five decades and at one point employed dozens of people.
Now there are only four members of staff, who Chris says have worked tirelessly to keep the business afloat despite an ever decreasing footfall.
He said: “Business has declined ever since Morrison’s closed in the town centre. It was hard enough before then but when that happened it went through the floor.
“Marks and Spencer is going and other stores are too. We want to go on our own terms rather than the bank close us down.
“We have been here for 52 years, my dad was involved from the start. I have seen a lot of changes since I joined in 1986.
“I have seen Wigan go from a thriving retail town to an absolute ghost town. There’s no draw, no incentive to come into the centre and it’s just getting worse.
“That’s why I have decided to call it a day.”
Although Chris is toying with the idea of continuing sales online, he says the shop will definitely be gone by the beginning of 2020.
After announcing a half price sale, a lot of the remaining stock has already gone but he will carry on trading until there is “nothing left. This way at least the people of Wigan, people who have been loyal customers for years get a bargain,” he added.
“It has been such a hard decision and I have spent six months trying to find a way to make things work. I have put my own money in to make it work but it’s just too risky now.
“We have had to close areas to make it smaller and more compact, that just shows how it’s been going.
“The staff have been absolutely amazing. Especially in the last two years they have gone above and beyond to try and keep us going.”
The defeated retailer says he does not see anything improving in the town centre and fears than in a couple of years it could be almost devoid of high street shops.
Wigan town centre has seen the departure of several major stores in the past few years with Morrison’s, Jessops, Peacocks, Monsoon, Accessorize, Argos and TK Maxx all moving on.
In January, the town hall approved a new strategic plan designed to set the foundations for its long-term development of the centre as a “diverse and thriving” destination.
The framework is a long-term plan which identifies opportunities that can be achieved in the short-term to set the basis on which the town can attract investment and grow and diversify.
Key projects in the short-term include: creating small business hubs, redeveloping the Galleries and Market Hall, which the council acquired last year to drive forward redevelopment, (this will include relocating the market to a more central position); protecting the retail core and setting out the future of what Wigan’s ‘High Street’ should be to drive footfall; actively managing the town centre so all residents can enjoy it in the day and evening and linking the Wigan Pier Quarter, currently under redevelopment, with the town centre.