Wigan stores to quit because they fear Galleries demolition work will worsen trade

Two retailers have announced they are quitting Wigan because they expect the demolition of the Galleries to be the last straw for them.

By Sian Jones
Wednesday, 26th January 2022, 10:38 am

Both are based in the historic Makinson Arcade which, while part of the Galleries complex, is not going to be razed or altered while the massive redevelopment project is rolled out over the next three years.

But as they have already had their struggles due to the decline in high street trade and the Covid pandemic, the worries of the disruption caused by the neighbouring works is one blow too many.

FiFi’s Clothing has been based there for five years but has decided to close in March due to the decreased footfall.

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Fiona Smith, owner of FiFi's

Terry’s Gift Shop, which moved into the arcade three months prior to the pandemic is also closing over the next few weeks.

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Fiona Smith, who owns FiFi’s, said: “Footfall has been declining rapidly. The first week back after Christmas I was taking £5 in a day.

“That coupled with the rise in electricity prices, it isn’t worth me being open.

Scott Taylor, owner of Terrys

“With it being a clothes shop, I have to keep it warm for people trying clothes on but there’s just no-one about and I can only see it getting worse once the car park closes and the demolition starts.

“People aren’t going to want to shop in a building site. We were told there would be hoarding going from the bus station to Makinson Arcade but there is still going to be a lot of debris and brick dust.

“We’ve also heard a rumour that they’re shutting the bottom shutter once work starts, so people will have to walk all the way round whereas now most business is those that are passing through.

“Taking all that into account, I have decided to close before I’m forced to close.

“I am devastated to be leaving, I’ve made so many new friends and memories here.”

Scott Taylor, who owns Terry’s, said: “Footfall is the reason we’ve decided to close.

“That along with the renovations and car park closure has led us to believe that it will get even worse.

“We decided to stop throwing money at something that isn’t even breaking even these days and walk away

“Our customer base is older people who aren’t coming out as much, meaning business has decreased by 75 per cent.

“We will miss our customers, they’ve become family to us. We’ve been to their special occasions and their funerals. Some have said they will miss just popping in for a chat.”

A £190m transformation Galleries25 masterplan was given the green light by the council in November and it will see most of the complex - only completed in the early 1990s - razed to be replaced largely with leisure, hospitality and retail premises plus a new market.

A hotel, 464 homes and a multimedia centre with a cinema, 10-lane bowling alley and indoor mini-golf are planned in what is a joint venture partnership between the local authority and developers Cityheart and BCEGI UK. A new market hall, shops and office space have also been proposed.

Currently, neither Makinson Arcade-based shop has plans to relocate elsewhere in the borough.

Terry’s is currently looking at premises in both Chorley and Bury, while Fiona is moving some of her Harry Potter merchandise to her husband’s stall in Chorley Market with the rest of her stock still being available online.

Fiona added: “My suppliers have been really great, They don’t usually supply to online businesses but they have been really supportive.

“I have been given the chance to have a little shop in Chorley but it won’t be doing the clothing.

“My customers have been amazing, the support has been overwhelming and they’ve said they will follow me online. If the oppurtunity arose, I’d come back to Wigan in a heartbeat.

“I love it here, but people come into town for the big stores not just the independents and if these big names keep dwindling unfortunately there won’t be anyone coming into the town.”

Scott added: “We’ve been in the town nearly 10 years so it is a shame to be leaving.

“Initially we’re taking a step back and not making any rash decisions, we’re just going to see how the land lies.

“We’ve looked at both Bury and Chorley as we feel they are regenerating their town centres and really working with residents to achieve the best outcome.

“I’d never say never about returning to Wigan but, I think as it stands, I don’t see us returning in the next five years.”

Aidan Thatcher, acting director for economy and skills, said: “The council, together with its development partner on the Galleries, CityHeart, have been undertaking detailed and continuous communications with the relevant stakeholders within the town. These stakeholders include local business and the market traders.

“We are aware that footfall in the town centre has fallen over the past few years in line with national trends.

“This is one of the key reasons we have chosen to move ahead with the Galleries redevelopment. We are optimistic these plans will create a more sustainable model for the future which is expected to increase visitor numbers and act as a catalyst for further investment in the town centre.”

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