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We're staying in Stratford town centre say Poundland and Marks and Spencer

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ONE of Stratford’s biggest retailers confirmed its commitment to the town this week after rumours circulated that Marks and Spencer was looking to move out of Bridge Street.

And the town centre was given a further boost as Poundland announced it would not be closing its Bridge Street branch after all.

Last month, Poundland said that it would be closing the store on 15th September, blaming high rents and rates, difficult trading conditions caused by Covid, and falling visitor numbers.

However, a statement issued by the retailer on Tuesday revealed the decision has been reversed.

“We’re delighted that we’ve reached an agreement with the landlord that means we can keep our store open in Bridge Street, Stratford,” said a spokesperson.

“Happiness has returned,” was how one delighted Poundland member of staff who had been facing redundancy described the store’s sudden reprieve.

However, don’t be alarmed if you find the shop doors shut this week, the store is closing from Sunday until Saturday, 18th September. A spokesperson explained: “We’re going to temporarily close the store for a few days to give the store a makeover so that it reopens refreshed and better than ever.”

Moving on … Poundland in Bridge Street, Stratford-upon-Avon. Photo: Mark Williamson P14/8/21/4626. (50282277)
Moving on … Poundland in Bridge Street, Stratford-upon-Avon. Photo: Mark Williamson P14/8/21/4626. (50282277)

Rumours were also rife this week that Marks and Spencer was concerned about a decline in business to the extent that they were considering moving out of Bridge Steet. However, a corporate spokesperson gave the Herald verbal assurances this week that they were not reconsidering their Stratford offering, and that all rumours to the contrary were untrue.

In fact the much-talked about bounce back was looking to be in full swing this week with confirmation in Stratford of two

more new businesses were coming into the town centre.

They are gentleman’s outfitter Brook Taverner which is moving into 13 Bridge Street, occupying the old Jaeger shop which is currently being refitted; and Fed, a new vegan café being opened by hairdresser Matthew Curtis next to his boutique on Union Street.

In addition The Artisan Butcher is set to open at the old Paxford and Whitfield shop on Wood Street later this month, and a new fine dining restaurant, Prospero, is expected to open at 33 Greenhill Street, where the Scullery restaurant was previously located.

Other new businesses opened recently include Bobapom bubble tea shop at Red Lion Court, Lily’s Waffles on Rother Street, the Music Café and Entourage both on Greenhill Street, and Crew Clothing on Bridge Street.

Tor Wilkes, marketing manager at Stratforward, welcomed the Poundland lifeline. She said: “This is fantastic news for

Stratford as it tries to get back on its feet after 18 months of

Covid disruption.

“Poundland has been a key component of the retail offer in the town centre for many years and it has led the battle to attract footfall away from online shopping and back onto our high street stores after the pandemic.

“The prospect of such a large retail unit in such a prominent position on the main street in town being empty was extremely worrying. Destination stores such as this are vital for any town centre and there is a great sigh of relief that it is staying.”

Another good sign was news from Stratford District Council that Stratford car parks are pack to 2019 levels indicating visitor numbers were strong.

SDC leader Tony Jefferson told the Herald: “I think there are genuine signs of a bounce back.

“I think everyone needs to remember how attractive Stratford town is to tourists. The reality is that if the town is full and busy then it supports the high streets and the shops. There are still some tensions in terms of rent. One of the other big issues is business rates – which as I keep telling people we do not set, we are merely the tax collector.”

Emphasising that the council was largely powerless when it came to influencing which new businesses came into town, Cllr Jefferson added: “Our influence is limited. There are a few levers we can pull, but not many. We have no control over rents, and that tends to be a big deciding factor for big business.”

Responding to the criticism that the council could do more for residents, rather than tourists, Cllr Jefferson said: “The reality is if the town isn’t busy and vibrant we will lose shops and restaurants and a lot of the facilities that residents take for granted. There are 9,000 jobs in hospitality in town and that benefits residents.”

Urging some caution, Cllr Jefferson concluded: “There is no room for complacency, we are not out of the woods yet by any stretch of the imagination. The supply chain issues are significant.

“However if we all keep a positive frame of mind and do everything to encourage businesses then I think that is a really good thing.”

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