Shop survey finds little movement

FRESH LOOK The owners of Dewsbury Arcade have been refurbishing its shops to attract new retailers. (D528A402)
FRESH LOOK The owners of Dewsbury Arcade have been refurbishing its shops to attract new retailers. (D528A402)

The departure of McDonald’s in November came as a real blow to Dewsbury town centre and its perceived appeal to shoppers.

But the overall number of retailers in the town centre has changed little in the three months since our last shop survey.

Regeneration board chairman Coun Paul Kane said: “It doesn’t surprise me that it’s fairly static, and I think stability in this sort of climate is probably as much as we’re going to get anyway.”

Two areas – the Princess of Wales Precinct and Foundry Street – have seen new businesses move in.

Bookmakers Ladbrokes has now opened its new branch in the former Val’s Cafe building in Foundry Street.

Freddies has taken over the former H Samuels unit in the Princess of Wales Precinct, but its tenancy might be short-lived. Posters around the shop this week advertised a closing down sale.

In nearby Church Street, the departure of McDonald’s looks likely to be compounded by the closure of jewellers Greenwoods.

The family business – and Dewsbury’s oldest shop – was put up for sale in September and a retirement sale has begun.

Coun Kane (Lad, Dews East) said he was hopeful that the former McDonald’s unit would be let to a new business soon.

“I’ve been led to believe there are two or three people looking at that,” he said.

“I have every confidence it will be taken because it’s a very prominent location.”

Daisy Hill and Dewsbury Arcade remain the areas with the lowest proportion of occupied units.

But Adhan Lettings has begun renovations to the historic arcade, where Polish shop Polskyie Specjaly has moved into a bigger unit.

All the shop exteriors have been repainted, while roof repairs and new signage are due to be completed this year.

Coun Kane said the successful Heritage Lottery bid would also lead to improvements in and around Northgate, a key route into the town centre.

And Kirklees Council has agreed to match £10,000 pledged by Dewsbury Area Committee for a business rates scheme which will support new ventures.

Coun Kane said: “It’s a drop in the ocean but in these severe hard times, it’s as much as the council can actually offer.

“We’re trying to do what we can to help, but [the setting of] business rates is a national issue.”

Elsewhere, some of the large empty units just outside the town centre are coming back into use.

Last weekend Screwfix opened a new store in Wilton Street next to B&Q, which is owned by the same parent company.

And retail chain B&M plans to open a 16,000 sq ft in Wilton Street in March.