Retail turbulence in Horsham continues

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HORSHAM’S economy looks turbulent as more town centre units close whilst other new businesses step up to breathe life back into the struggling high street.

Last weekend, Swan Walk Shopping Centre’s central cafe BB’s stopped trading.

It now joins Bonmarche, the Sony Centre, Barratts, Blacks, Frames and Pictures, Feet First, Hawkin’s Bazaar, Millets and Past Times, all recently shut, threatened with closure, or gone into administration.

The shops have become casualties of cut-throat competition on the high street, compounded by the growth of online trading.

The Real Eating Company, with a concession in East Street cookshop Steamer Trading, will soon open in BB’s place however.

Owner Helena Hudson told the County Times on January 24 that she hoped to have the cafe up and running in the next two weeks.

She said: “I think Horsham’s a great town. We’re confident in it because we’ve been here for five years and it’s always been one of our most performing sites, year on year.

“We’re pleased to move in here but sorry about other businesses are having to close. But I would like to bring some more footfall in here when we open.”

Gill Buchanan, Swan Walk centre manager and chair of Horsham Unlimited, said: “The planned departure of BB’s was completed over last weekend and we were delighted to be able to announce on Monday that The Real Eating Company will be joining the centre’s line up and are already shopfitting.

“We believe that their offer will better match our customer expectations and will make considerable improvements to the environment in this part of the centre.”

She added: “Shopping centres and town centres constantly evolve and this development will further add to the quality of offer in the town centre.”

On Monday clothing retailer Bonmarche, part of the Peacocks Group, announced it had been bought by private equity group Sun European Partners.

But Sun, which bought the entire chain out of administration in a pre-pack deal apart from three stores, said it would close around 160 stores, resulting in 1,400 redundancies.

It is not known what impact the move will have on Horsham’s West Street shop, as a list of site closures has not been released.

Last week, the County Times reported financial difficulties with Loughton Photographic Limited, responsible for 12 Sony Centres across the South East, including the Swan Walk store.

They were appointed administrators on Thursday January 5 and the store has since closed.

It sits desolate next to empty retro gift shop Past Times and shoe shop Barratts.

Feet First fish pedicure, in Swan Walk, ceased trading on Sunday January 15. The business was one of Swan Walk’s newest additions and was open for less than a year.

A note outside the store reads: “Due to circumstances out of our control we will cease trading.

“We would like to take this opportunity to thank our customers for their loyal support.”

Meanwhile, a question mark still hangs over West Street’s Millets and the Forum’s Blacks outdoor leisure store after the group was bought was JD Sports Fashion for £20m. The company now owns three units in Horsham.

But while many units remain empty, a number of businesses are poised to open in the coming weeks.

Work has begun on Middle Street’s soon-to-be Gamestar, in place of the once thriving Chris White Family Butchers.

Crafts and Home fabric and material shop is currently recruiting for staff at their new West Street unit.

And Italian restaurant ASK has been working on the Grade II listed building Ye Olde King’s Head Hotel in the Carfax since last summer.

The group had planned to open their doors to the public in November 2011, but this has been delayed until early this year. ASK would not disclose a date to the County Times.

Meanwhile, rumours of a Nando’s restaurant opening in empty Bishopric units circulate, but the company has not confirmed its movements.