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

This month’s semi-quarantined window on the shop windows

By the time you have read this, you may have had your first pint in a pub in 14 weeks. Instead of celebrating this, your first pint in a pub since lockdown might be your last for a while because of recent redundancy announcements. You might be afraid of catching the Coronavirus due to increased footfall and changes to social distancing measures.

This Saturday will be no ordinary one at that. More shops will be opening, as well as our pubs and restaurants. For many regular and not-so-regular pub goers, the experience will be an unprecedented one.

Super Saturday or Sober Saturday?

Her Majesty’s Government has billed the 4th July as ‘Super Saturday’. In some quarters, it is being billed as Independence Day (as it falls on the USA’s Independence Day weekend). With the propaganda encouraging us all to Have A Pint For Victory, it encourages Hogarthian imbibing over moderation. On the other hand they hope you use your common sense, transferring more of the risk of catching COVID-19 from the Government to the individual. (In other words, you are on your own).

From today, your local pub will be different to pre-lockdown conditions. The bar will be protected by perspex panels, like the cashier service of your local bank. You will no longer be able to stand at the bar, and you may be limited to a given number of drinks or only be allowed to stay for a certain period of time. There will be no music nor raised voices and less room for customers. For the first time in history, you may be told to “shush” in a public house (anyone who has visited a public library up to the 1990s can relate to this).

Our public houses will also have social distancing measures. This time to the new limit of one metre (plus safety modifications). Meals will be served from a limited menu and you might receive disposable cutlery instead of knives and forks forged with the finest Korean or Sheffield stainless steel.

If you do wish to visit a pub on the 04 July, feel free to tell us about your experiences. Yours truly will be socially distancing himself from the local for some time, so any feedback on your visits are much appreciated.

Some more news on the queues

The 15 June saw the reopening of ‘non essential’ retailers. In addition to supermarkets and chemists, this meant the reopening of clothes shops, white goods retailers, and stationers.

Our borough was no exception to the rule with massive queues outside Sports Direct in Crown Point North, Denton. What was evident was the lack of social distancing.

There was no prizes for guessing where the other infamously long queue was in our borough. Well, the answer has four letters and begins with the letter ‘I’.

Retail redundancies and closures

On the flip side of what has been described as Super Saturday is the dark side of our post-Coronavirus economy: redundancies in the retail sector. For the last decade, our bricks and mortar retail sector has struggled against the rise of internet shopping, and a double dip recession. Today, you see more column inches about retailers closing down or renegotiating rents instead of opening new stores.

The economic forecast for a post-lockdown Britain is gloomier still with the service industry taking a hit. Some staff have been furloughed, with a smaller number being made redundant upon the end of that period.

Over in Oldham and Manchester, Debenhams has been walking on a tightrope. The Restaurant Group is rationalising its portfolio of casual dining restaurants: namely Frankie and Bennys and Chiquito. So far, Tameside’s two in Ashton-under-Lyne and Denton will be open for the foreseeable future.

Ashton Independents Day

With our pent-up frustration for retail therapy taking hold, Ashton-under-Lyne’s independent traders have called the 4th July Ashton Independents Day. With Ashton having a mix of long established and recently formed independent businesses, Ashton Town Team chose a more measured take on Super Saturday. (HM Treasury, please take note).

Our friends at Ashton Town Team have given us some sage advice on The New Ways of Working as well as supporting our independent retailers. It calls for kindness, patience, striking a conversation with a stranger in the queue and staying safe. You can find out more about this initiative in The Correspondent‘s article.

TAC Tales

With Ashton-under-Lyne Bus Station Mark IV, the eastern access road and layover bays should be close to completion. We think the new facility will be open by the end of this month. If open by then, this will coincide with the summertime bus timetable changes.

Forthcoming Planning Applications

With the lockdown still in place, it has been a quiet month.

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

  • 167 Mossley Road, presently a private dwelling, could be an office and storage area for the neighbouring Adams Pharmacy.
  • Plans have been submitted for the addition of a two storey extension to the Davaar Medical Centre on 20 – 22 Concord Way, Dukinfield. The first floor will have additional office space and staff facilities. If approved, this would be added to the site of The Friendship public house, and leaves the future of The Hollies Surgery on Birch Lane in the balance.
  • With the Government’s ‘Stuff the 341+’ message proving to be effective, Lymefield Garden Nursery in Broadbottom has applied for permission to extend its car park. They will do this by demolishing the existing garden centre and adding a new 10 x 16m single storey building.
  • The Hyde Islamic Resource Centre, who now have the former Theatre Royal building, have submitted plans for proposed alterations to the first floor. This would allow for female members. Other parts of their planning application will see the restoration of the theatre building’s frontage and the part removal of its stage to permit level access, and the restoration of its ceiling.
  • A mezzanine floor could be added to Firwood Carpet Company’s Denton branch on Lupton Street.
  • Following on from 2014’s bridge reconstruction work on Oldham Road, it may soon be the turn of Stamford Street East’s railway bridge. This will be part of the Transpennine Route Upgrade, so we wonder if the wires will be extended from Manchester Victoria to Stalybridge.

+ Other Tameside bus routes are available (“Though not in Broadbottom as the 341 is the village’s only bus route” – Ed).

Retail Movements

Little to report; a short but sweet update again.

  • There could be three Costa Coffees in Ashton: this time with the third branch due to open on Snipe Retail Park. The new site will be adjacent to the retail park’s drive-thru McDonalds. Like its burger-based cousin, that too will be a drive-thru branch.
  • Bon Marché has been saved from liquidation, with the Edinburgh Woollen Mill Company its new owners. This was stated in the shop window of its Ladysmith Shopping Centre branch. On the down side, it was reported in Retail Gazette that 30 underperforming stores could be closed by the 11 December.
  • Singhar Beauty will be moving to an enclosed unit in the Arcades Shopping Centre. At present, it has an open unit next to the Sky stand near WHSmith. Its new home will be the former Magpie’s Nest/The Body Shop/Allsports unit adjacent to Superdrug.
  • Value Clothing’s unit is now Essentials – almost a spiritual successor to the late great Fullmonte store on Warrington Street. Only with short coded food a la Dee Jay’s Discount as well as toys and fancy goods.

Pub and club update

The biggest story affecting our pubs and clubs is HM Government’s state sanctioned reopening date on the 4th July. Instead of opening on Saturday, some of our pubs have elected to open on weekdays.

After sending out Sunday dinners, the former Bower Club (where Bower Fold Events hold the fort) will be reopening on the 04 July at 8am. As part of The New Normal®, bookings need to be taken, plus each household or support bubble should have no more than six people. To soften the blow a bit, they have focused on food.

Our friends at the recently refurbished Forester in Dukinfield will get chance to celebrate its reopening in more ways than one. The newly refurbished pub was supposed to reopen days after what became the lockdown date. Therefore, the 04 July would be a special one.

Craft Union, whose estate includes The Jolly Carter in Newton and the legendary Beau Geste in Ashton have kept their customers in the loop with the NHS Test and Trace side of things. Through Pubtrace (Pubtrace.co.uk), Craft Union will retain your details for 21 days.

The Tame Valley, the only pub on Park Road, Dukinfield, has deferred its reopening till Monday 06 July. In advance of their reopening, they will be starting a full service takeaway menu – seven days a week with breakfast, lunch and dinner options. Good on them for showing some moderation and in extending their takeaway options.

*                     *                    *

Next Month:

Our next Ashton Review of Shops will be out on the 01 August 2020 at the usual time of 9am. Will a few more shops be open and is Ashton Bus Station Mark IV closer to completion? As always, feel free to elaborate on our observations or add a few more to the mix.

S.V., 04 July 2020.

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