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Co-op's Closure leaves Gaping Hole in London Road

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Jimmy (left) and Barry with
55 years of service between them
Count down to closure
Everything Must Go!
Not Much Left

The Co-operative department store in London Road reached the end of the road in February 2007 and closed. The last days of the store's existence saw staff selling off everything - stock, shelves, workers' lockers: the lot!

Closure had been on the cards since 2005 when the Co-operative Group made the decision to close the whole of its loss making department store business. Since then attempts to find a buyer for the store as a going concern have failed.

The Co-op department store had traded in the London Road for about 100 years. The other historic department store to close in recent years was Hanningtons at the bottom of North Street. It had traded for almost 200 years, and was sold by the family that owned it, the Hunnisett family, to a London property company, Regina Estates, for £20 million.

The Hannington's ground floor frontage has been reopened as a line of shops, aimed at the high end of the retail market, and its upper floors have become apartments. As yet there seems to be no future for the Co-op building, although plans for the regeneration of the nearby Open Market are looked to as possibly offering a glimmer of hope to the London Road shopping district, which has struggled for many years against decline.

A long time ago, back in the 70s and early 80s, the London Road was a thriving shopping centre, and boasted its own branches of national store chains, such as Marks & Spencer. But the deep recessions of the 1980s and the then growing trend to develop edge-of-town shopping malls, saw the beginning of its long, slow decline. The Co-op along with supermarkets, Sainsburys and Somerfield, and the branch of Woolies have anchored the road and kept it going. Now the Co-op is gone and Sainsburys will shortly close and then reopen in its new store in the nearby New England Quarter redevelopment.

London Road and Baker Street have seen something of a revival in recent years. Occupancy is higher, and Baker Street in particular has seen a big improvement in the quality of its shops. The nearby New England Quarter is now in an advanced state of development and its future residents and workers are a large potential source of customers for London Road shops. But whereas the Open Market traders are working together and attempting to develop a prosperous future, the traders of the London Road seem to have little collective identity. The very well organised North Laine Traders Association are often pointed to as an example for others to follow.

The London Road / Lewes Road area has been identified by the city council as a regeneration area and the proposed plans are due out shortly, after years of preparation and consultation.

We'll comment when we know more.

 

 

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