Shop closures in Ripley, but councillors remain confident

COUNCILLORS in Ripley are determined to remain buoyant about the town centre’s future, despite a rash of shop closures.

COUNCILLORS in Ripley are determined to remain buoyant about the town centre’s future, despite a rash of shop closures.

Electrical store Currys, which employs five people, is to vacate its Oxford Street outlet as part of a review of the national chain’s smaller stores.

It comes after clothes retailer Bon Marche pulled out of the town last month, and three businesses shut their outlets on Church Street due to a drop in footfall.

And this week the future of Dorothy Perkins, women’s clothes store on Oxford Street, which employs eight people, also hung in the balance as company bosses decide whether to keep open the Ripley outlet of the national chain .

But leader of Ripley Town Council Cllr Steve Freeborn says the town is just suffering a trading ‘blip’ – rather than the start of a downward spiral.

He said: “We have got the most independent retailers in Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire.

“Some shoppers clearly want to go to the Westfield shopping centre in Derby. But the centre in Derby is just like the next one down the road; and the next one after that.

“What Ripley offers is over and above that - it’s about the care you get from people and shopkeepers in Ripley.”

Currys is to close in late June, according to a company spokesman, who said attempts are being made to find the staff jobs at outlets in Derby.

The spokesman added: “The team has been informed, and we will be working with them in the coming weeks to help them find alternative employment - preferably within the Dixons organisation, as there a number of other stores nearby.”

A recent report by planners and developers Roger Tym and Partners found Ripley to have the third highest amount of independent retailers in the East Midlands.

But in the past four weeks it has lost three on Church Street alone.

Caroline Evans, who owns the Book Boutique there, says she is moving her business online just over a year after opening, because of a lack of footfall in the town.

She said: “The High Street is not doing as well as it was before Christmas. It just didn’t pick up again.”

Caroline, 28, of Ripley Road, Sawmills, will continue to sell her books and crafts online at www.thebookboutique.webs.com and in a novel move, is to stock shelves of her books in other people’s stores. So far she has fixed for books to be stocked at Magic and Moonbeams on High Street, Heanor, and at the Muse Gallery in Heage, which are to sell them in return for 20 per cent commission.

Heather Leach , owner of the Chimera games shop on the same road is moving her business to Beeston to take advantage of the town’s Business Improvement District scheme. She added: “There’s no decent long stay car parking around here.”

And Christine Gardener, 41, who co-owned the Latte Lounge on Church Street, said: “Footfall has died off in the last 18 months. When we were open 18 months ago there was eight of us working in here - the last six months it has just been me and my sister running the shop.”

However Christine and co-owner Michelle Sharp, 38, said they are hoping to start a new venture at the premises soon.

A spokesperson for Dorothy Perkins said the company would make a decision on whether to stay in the town over the next fortnight, due to an increase in rent demands from the landlord of the Oxford Street premises. The popular women’s clothes shop had begun opening on Sundays and Bank Holidays in a bid to maintain trade.

Regeneration manager at Amber Valley Borough Council Steven Jackson said there was still cause for optimism in the town however.

He said: “We have got the Ripley Masterplan in place – hopefully that will get new investment into the town centre and we are looking at ways to support people wanting to set up new businesses in the town.

“Ripley has always been quite healthy for independent retailers.”

He added that the scale of improvements realised in the town centre would be dependent on the sale of council-owned land at Nottingham Road to supermarket giant Morrisons.