The Midlands Co-operative Society has hit back at claims it priced a Farm Foods store out of Ripley by raising its rents too high.
Last week staff members from the Oxford Street Farm Foods contacted the News to say company management had visited them to warn of the store’s impending closure.
The eight workers at the popular frozen food retailer were told that the owners of the building - Midlands Co-operative Society – were set to increase rents when the lease on the premises expires in September and Farm Foods would not be able to cope with the rise.
But this week a Co-operative spokesperson told the News this is not the case - adding: “We have proposed no rental increase to this store or any other of our tenants on Oxford Street.”
For the second time in two weeks Farm Foods, which nationally reported pre-tax profits of £27million in 2012– a rise of ten per cent on the previous year – has declined to comment on why it is closing the store.
Leader of Ripley Town Council Cllr Steve Freeborn says if Farm Foods closes it will be a big loss to the town.
He said: “It always seems to be doing a good trade in there.
“It seems now that the Co-op isn’t raising it’s rents, so why don’t they stay?”
Cllr Freeborn also spoke on how important it is big name retailers are kept in Ripley.
“We don’t want to see these shops turned into amusement arcades ,” he said. “We want it to remain a shop and Farm Foods offers a little niche that isn’t provided by anyone else in the town.”
With the latest news casting speculation over Farm Foods’ decision to close the 25-year-old Oxford Street store, regular customers have pleaded with company bosses to keep it open.
Mum-of-one Karen Paget says, 22, of Burke Drive, Somercotes said: “It’s cheap and it’s good also.
“Especially when you’ve got family and you are on a tight budget, it’s one of the best places to shop for bargains.
“I always get my chicken from there.”
And addressing the company bosses she said: “Don’t let it go!”
There are Farm Food stores in Alfreton and Langley Mill.
But young mum Stephanie Coventry, who has an 18-month-old daughter Brooke and lives near the town centre, said he extra travelling costs will be a blow to those living on a shoestring budget.
“I can’t go into Alfreton every week,” she said. “And when I need a bit of bread or milk in the week I always come here to the Ripley shop, where can I go?”
Ripley & Heanor News readers have been commenting via our website and Fabcebook page on the closure also.
Brenda Frost said via Facebook: “Oh no not another much needed shop, there wont be anything left soon.”
And website user Col, said: “Oh joy that’s more room for another charity shop/takeaway/bookies and another reason not to go shopping up Ripley.”
What are your thoughts? Contact the News via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via our Facebook page.