Wrexham Eagles Meadow shop closures highlights retail problems

Image caption,
Signs of the times: Closure notices for Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Grainger Games and Poundworld

The loss of several big retailers from a Wrexham shopping centre reflects the "difficult time" facing the industry nationally, its boss has claimed.

Arcadia Group's Topshop and Topman, Dorothy Perkins and Burton are not renewing their leases at Eagles Meadow.

Coffee chain Starbucks and bakers Greggs are also quitting the centre.

Kevin Critchley said the move was disappointing but he hoped to attract more retailers in coming months, with two units under offer.

The shopping centre, which is off Wrexham town centre, marks its tenth anniversary in October, a year after it reported a record number of 3.5m visitors, up 1.9% from 2016, he said.

"It isn't just Eagles Meadow and it isn't just Wrexham, it's right across the county. Bricks and mortar retailing has been going through a difficult time," said Mr Critchley.

"Certainly town centres have been struggling for quite a few years with out of town developments and the growth of internet."

Image caption,
Burtons and Dorothy Perkins stores are closing this month at Eagles Meadow

In July, Bill Grimsey, former head of Wickes, Iceland and Focus DIY, claimed town centres and high streets could become "ghost towns in the future" without action.

Retailers on UK High Streets have been hit by weak sales, online competition and rising costs, affecting 22,000 jobs this year, according to BBC 5 live's Wake Up To Money which has been tracking shop closures and retail administrations.

Wrexham Business Group chairwoman Ruth Rees, co-owner of Martin Rees Jewellers, said the town had faced challenges in recent years with Eagles Meadow making an "important contribution" to helping the town.

She said the town as a whole could benefit from more independent retailers offering a personal customer service experience.

Image caption,
Eagles Meadows includes apartments as well as shops and leisure facilities

"It would help to keep the town centre more vibrant," she said, explaining how her own business diversified to include online sales which had, in turn, resulted in more people visiting its premises.

None of the stores have outlined why they are leaving Wrexham. A spokeswoman for the Arcadia Group said it "endeavoured" to offer staff jobs elsewhere in the business when its Wrexham stores cease trading on 22 September.

Starbucks said it was holding a "closing party" for customers before shutting its doors for the last time on Sunday. Greggs has yet to comment.

Councillor Terry Evans, Wrexham's lead member for economic performance and regeneration, said the loss of any businesses in the town centre would be "keenly felt".

He said footfall had increased in the last year which came as the authority made improvements, such as providing grants to businesses to invest in their own buildings, and using the former Iceland premises on Queens Square as an enterprise hub which support firms and host events.

"We're also buoyed by the very recent news that, once more, tourism spend has gone up in Wrexham, reaching £118m in 2017 - so visitors are obviously very keen to come to Wrexham," he said.

"We're hopeful that such good news will give investors, businesses and companies cause for confidence in Wrexham."

Image caption,
Eagles Meadow on a rainy Thursday afternoon