Retail Comings and Goings in Tameside, January 2020: The Ashton Review of Shops

This month’s window on the shop windows

  • Happy New Year!
  • Ashton Town Hall refurbishment;
  • Plus all the usual retail movements from Debdale Park to Woolley Bridge.

We would like to wish all our readers a Happy New Year and thank you for supporting The Ashton Review of Shops in 2019. We hope you will do the same in 2020, because it is going to be one hell of a year. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.

Tameside’s Ten Year Challenge

How has our borough’s retail scene changed in the last ten years? It is safe to say “same but different”, with the value-led retail offer dominating Hyde and Ashton-under-Lyne. In the last decade, Stalybridge has picked itself with a new generation of independent shops establishing themselves in the centre.

Throughout the borough, we have lost more retail banks and public houses in the last decade. In 2010, only Mottram-in-Longdendale and Audenshaw lacked retail banks. Now in 2020, Dukinfield, Mossley and (more recently) Droylsden, have lost their last retail banks. Stalybridge only has one branch.

Our public houses have been lost to housing developments and convenience stores. In the last five years, micropubs have begun to fill the gap.

Public Houses

2010: a fair number of Tameside’s public houses had served their last pints due to the global financial downturn and Pubco rents. Many people blamed the 2007 Smoking Ban which, in many cases, has made having a quick pint a more pleasant experience.

2020: though pubs have continued to close in the ten years leading to 2020, the ‘traditional street corner boozer’ gave way to food-led pubs (see the new-look Top Astley on Chapel Hill – also The Fletcher’s Arms in Denton). Since 2016, the micro bar has risen in popularity with Bridge Beers setting the trend. Some of the ‘traditional street corner boozers’ have gone for a value-led approach; great for the locals, not so for the beer tickers.

Department Stores

2010: Denton and Ashton-under-Lyne had edge of town/town centre department stores in the vein of BHS and Marks and Spencer.

2020: the loss of BHS in Crown Point North (2016) was also joined by the recent (2019) closure of M&S Outlet. Still being felt as a loss by many shoppers is Marks and Spencer’s departure from Ashton-under-Lyne town centre towards Ashton Moss (January 2013).

Clothing

2010: you could still buy a suit in Burton and a smart shirt from Top Man/Top Shop. There was plenty of variety for teens and grandparents, whether you chose Peacocks, New Look, Next, Bon Marché or local supermarkets. There was also a good selection of independent boutiques.

2020: instead of Burton’s and Dorothy Perkins’ unit on Staveleigh Way (Select since 2015), Outfit in Crown Point North has rendered the Arcadia Group’s Ashton shops superfluous. After 35 years, Top Shop/Top Man has left its Warrington Street unit. Next is the only credible option for a smart suite, whether at the Arcades Shopping Centre or Snipe Retail Park.

The last decade has been a depressing one for clothing based retail. Bon Marché is a more recent casualty with its Ashton and Hyde stores closed by the time you have read this. For many shoppers, it is a choice of the supermarkets, a trip to Primark outside the borough, or that thing we call the internet.

Retail banks

2010: following the then recent global financial downturn, the then Labour government spent money on bailing out retail banks. This had meant the nationalisation of RBS Group (including NatWest) and Lloyds TSB, which had an effect on our national debt. Back then in Tameside, there was still enough retail banks and building societies for face to face contact. Internet banking began to be the norm for many households.

2020: only Ashton-under-Lyne, Stalybridge, Hyde and Denton of the Nine Towns have a retail bank. NatWest is now the only bank in Stalybridge, which has lost most of its banks and building societies in the last five years (Barclays, Yorkshire Bank, Lloyds, Yorkshire Building Society). Barclays’ Ashton branch is now in the Arcades Shopping Centre. Santander moved from their Ladysmith Shopping Centre branch (late Abbey National and National and Provincial before then) to the former Bradford and Bingley branch (and Job Centre) on Old Street/Warrington Street.

The biggest change to Tameside’s retail banking scene (besides online banking) has been the Royal Bank of Scotland’s withdrawal from the North West of England. The RBS Group wanted to spin-off its North West branches of The Royal Bank of Scotland as Williams and Glyn and turn the group into a challenger bank. It is claimed that the results of the 2016 EU Referendum stymied this, leading to RBS Group’s decision to discontinue The Royal Bank of Scotland’s operations in Northern England.

Discount stores

2010: the then recent loss of Woolworths led to the rise of Wilko’s position as the UK’s foremost variety retailer. Starting to make inroads in the borough was B&M Bargains. By then, Quality Save and Home Bargains had had established themselves in Tameside, with units in Stalybridge, Hyde, Ashton-under-Lyne and Droylsden. Poundworld, whose roots lay in the Superpound chain and a Wakefield market stall, began to challenge Poundland for the crown of Britain’s favourite single priced retailer.

2020: a decade on, we find that our discount stores weren’t immune from the downturn in retail spending. Poundworld spawned Bargain Buys in 2013 – taking on the former Marks and Spencer unit in Ashton that December. By 2018, Poundworld ceased trading; Bargain Buys was taken over by Poundstretcher’s parent company whereas the original owners of Poundworld formed One Below. Poundland, whose Ashton store opened in 2009, now sells some items for more than a pound – and clothes by Pep and Co. in their Poundland stores.

Wilko had not been without its problems in the last decade having had a few near misses with bankruptcy. They closed their Hyde store shortly after the opening of their Crown Point North branch. In the space of the decade, their Ashton store has moved from TAC to the Arcades Shopping Centre to their ‘new’ unit in Tameside One. Both B&M and Home Bargains/Quality Save have expanded, taking on out of town units. B&M has since purchased the Heron Freezer Centres chain.

Independent Retailers

2010: Tameside still had plenty of independent retailers including market traders. The Shubar, O’Briens and Holloways were among Ashton’s alternatives to the chain stores for footwear, suits and luggage. Hyde’s offers included Harb Electrics as well as the indoor and outdoor markets.

2020: by 2012, retail commentator and consultant Mary Portas touched a nerve when she highlighted the state of our nation’s boarded up shops. There was a perfect storm that comprised of a recession, the dominance of superstore chains, and the rise of internet shopping. The rise of social media had also invigorated some of our independent retailers.

In the last decade, there has been a shift towards high quality independent niche retailers in our borough. Particularly in Stalybridge where the town is as synonymous with Magpie’s Nest and Florence and Amelias as well as The Tripe and Sandwich Shop and its iconic station buffet bar. On the other hand we have seen the loss of Holloways, The Shubar and O’Briens from Ashton. The 2020 picture for independent retail is still far from rosy but there’s enough invention and drive in our borough to reach the parts that Amazon cannot reach.

Market Halls and Open Markets

2010: back in 2010, Ashton-under-Lyne’s open market was buoyant for at least seven days a week. The pattern of Tuesday and Sunday flea markets had established itself in the shoppers’ calendar alongside the monthly Farmers’ Market. There was also a good following at Hyde market, and both towns had popular indoor markets. Back then, Droylsden and Denton had lost its open markets with the latter being changed into a focal piazza.

2020: in the last two years, the regimented layout of the previous open market in Ashton gave way to a new layout that lacks central coherence. The original premise was to re-profile one half of the open market ground for occasional stalls, fairgrounds and a seating area with fountains. So far, the grand design for Ashton’s open market is far from finished as traces of the previous stalls remain.

Adopting a similar premise to Ashton (in a more modest scale) is Hyde’s open market ground. The permanent stalls are placed in a ‘L’ shape which makes for a windy approach for shoppers.

Over the last decade, the most positive development has been Tameside’s occasional markets. Whether organised by Tameside MBC or third parties like Little Owl Events, they have given shoppers another worthwhile reason to go to Stalybridge, Ashton or Hyde.

TAC Tales

After much delay, £270,000 will be spent on repairing Ashton Town Hall. During the demolition of the TAC building, part of the structure had been compromised. £120,000 of this money will be spent on making the structure watertight with the remainder covering any potential delays and a structural survey.

Forthcoming Planning Applications

Polite Note: for reasons of brevity, any pub and club applications come under the Pub and Club Update section. Aye thank you…

Not a lot going on, due to the Christmas break.

  • A rear single storey extension could be added to the newsagents on 317 – 319 King Street, Dukinfield.
  • Deshopification could be on the cards for A and B Newsagents on 343 – 345 Manchester Road, Droylsden.
  • The first floor of the former Crown Decorating Centre on 76 Oldham Street, Hyde, could be a House of Multiple Occupation. The former showroom at ground level could be a play place.
  • The Card Cabin on 58 Manchester Road, Denton, could be converted into a café.
  • Northern Tool Hire on 227 Mossley Road could benefit from a ground floor single story extension to its showroom.
  • New cash machine signs could be added to HSBC UK on Stamford Street, Ashton-under-Lyne.
  • Deshopification awaits The Station Brew on 3, Station View, Fairfield as plans have been submitted for converting the café into a ground floor flat.

Retail Movements

More ‘comings’ instead of ‘goings’ again… Yay!

  • New to Stalybridge in part of what was The Commercial Hotel on 4 Melbourne Street is Fairytalez, a new family-run wedding dress shop.
  • Work seems to be under way in what was Barclays Bank’s premises on Stamford Street Centre.
  • Also new to Stalybridge, again on Melbourne Street, is Longden and Co. Accountants. They too will be occupying part of the former Commercial Hotel.
  • The former Allen’s Fried Chicken unit on Old Street, Ashton-under-Lyne has been made good and offered for sale by P&B Properties.
  • In about a fortnight’s time, The Bread Basket on Cheetham Hill Road, Dukinfield will be reopening. I wonder who would fancy taking a punt on the former William Hill bookmakers?
  • On 111 Stamford Street, Stalybridge, Manchester Van Sales opened their showrooms early last month.
  • A new clothing shop has opened in the former Top Shop/Topman unit on 51 Warrington Street. It has been selling ‘…God Created Manchester’ T-Shirts (rude not to if your premises are on 51 Warrington Street, as in FAC 51 The Haçienda).
  • Hays Travel now has two premises in Ashton-under-Lyne. In addition to their own shop on Mercian Way, they have also taken on the former Thomas Cook unit on Warrington Street.
  • As is expected, The Calendar Club will enter into hibernation by the time you have read this and return for November 2020. If you haven’t yet got a calendar or diary, they should hurry along to their unit in the Arcades Shopping Centre for some clearance bargains.
  • In the last month, we have also found that Pound Bakery has been saved from administration. 1,400 jobs have been saved, though 11 branches of Pound Bakery (and their sister chain Sayers) will close.
  • Though a little out of our radar for The Ashton Review of Shops, Debenhams is to close nineteen stores. Thankfully, neither the Oldham nor the Stockport stores are on the nineteen. In Greater Manchester, this will only affect the Altrincham branch.

Pub and club update

After nearly 40 years as a pub, The Penny Farthing‘s depubification has been made complete. Despite a campaign for its continued use as an Asset of Community Value, plans have been submitted for its demolition. On the site could be one dwelling and five pairs of semi-detached houses.

The To Let signs can still be seen on The Astley Arms in Tame Street (The Little Astley). If you want to pop in The Forester before its half a million pound refurbishment work, this month may be your last chance to call in.

*                     *                    *

Next Month:

Our next Ashton Review of Shops will be out on the 01 February 2020 at the usual time of 9am. Same time, same bat channel.

S.V., 04 January 2020.

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