Welcome back to your window on the Tameside shop windows

After two months away from looking at the shop windows, The Ashton Review of Shops is back on East of the M60. The creator of this blog has been busier with other activities related to his job and has spent less time in his locality.

The view from our shop windows so far

In the last month, we have been able to return to our favourite pubs and shops. Being able to practice social distancing measures has become a matter of personal choice (or ‘common sense’ if you prefer) instead of legislature. Though it is no longer illegal to avoid wearing a face covering, our shops encourage you to wear one. (Out of courtesy for other shoppers and staff).

The last two months have been a mixed one for Tameside’s retail scene. In brief we found that Hyde has lost another retail bank; Ashton-under-Lyne will be losing a smart fashion store; and that Stalybridge’s Foodie Friday kickstarted a memorable weekend for the town. If we were to condense the last two months in retail to a single sentence, it is that “we are seeing a radical shift in shopping habits.”

It could argued that Ashton-under-Lyne’s status as the borough’s main retail centre is waning. Out of town retail or edge-of-town retail has remained solid, thanks in no small part to Tameside being the most car-dependent part of Greater Manchester (71% according to the Places For Everyone report). Crown Point North, even with the loss of Arcadia’s Burton store, not only has an effect on footfall into Ashton-under-Lyne. It has had some effect on Hyde, and one wonders what effect Hattersley’s new retail development may have five years or so from now.

Next to leave Arcades Shopping Centre

Today [07 August 2021] sees the closure of Next, the quality male and female outfitters’ store at Arcades Shopping Centre. Its business will be transferred to their out-of-town branches at Snipe Retail Park and Crown Point North, Denton.

Next was one of the longest serving tenants in the Arcades Shopping Centre. The longest serving tenant at the Arcades Shopping Centre is WHSmith, if you count its first three years as a branch of John Menzies.

It may be easy to lay the blame on M&S’ move to Ashton Moss in 2013, but the size of its unit is tiny compared with other Next stores across the UK. As far back as 2010, the size of Ashton’s small units and lack of department store sized units was seen as a barrier to the town’s progress. This could be one of a few factors besides depressed wages.

Foodie Friday and Stalybridge’s Artisan Market

On the 23rd and 24th July, Stalybridge took one step towards being a ‘must-visit’ destination for quality food and drink, and arty goods. From 5pm, Stalybridge’s first Foodie Friday was an immediate success. With plenty of artisanal food and drink, crowds of shoppers and browsers flocked to Armentieres Square. Like Ashton-under-Lyne’s Artisan Market, this was managed by The Market Co.

As the market filled the square, local buses were rerouted for this event via Portland Place, going straight into the bus station. It is hoped that the next five Foodie Fridays would match the success of its first one. Well, weather permitting of course, as the warm weather helped July’s event.

Then on Saturday, this was followed by the Artisan Market. That too was well attended with a number of artists, bakers and small businesses showing off their wares. Throughout the weekend, outside Holy Trinity Church, there was also a pop-up art exhibition from Future Everything, which used multimedia technology with a Stalybridge theme.

Today, three of Tameside’s town centres now have an Artisan Market. Hyde also has one, held on the first Saturday at each month.

The next Foodie Friday will be on the 13th August 2021. Ashton-under-Lyne’s next Artisan Market will be held on the 28th August 2021. Hyde’s next Artisan Market is today, on the 7th August 2021.

Other retail changes in the Tameside area

  • New to Droylsden is the Colleen Katherine Academy, a hair and beauty salon on the corner of Manchester Road and Edge Lane facing the Half Way House.
  • Also in Ashton-under-Lyne, Candyland has opened on Old Street. No prizes for guessing what they sell, then…
  • On Bow Street, Ginger Locus Media has taken on a unit on Number 5.
  • Leaving us from Ladysmith Shopping Centre is Chicks Like Cheeky.
  • Starbucks Coffee has now opened outside ASDA off Cavendish Street.

Forthcoming Planning Applications

Any plans affecting our public houses will be seen in the Pub and Club Update section. Aye thank you…

As Bjork (or Janice Battersby in Corrie) once said…

  • Northern Orthodontics on 46 Stamford Street East has put in plans for a DDA compliant ramp.

Pub and club update

Since the 18th July, most of our borough’s pubs have reopened without the need for social distancing measures or table service. Sadly, since the last three lockdowns and other measures like table service, some have closed for good.

Time Zone, previously known as The Clarence and Boars Head is one of them, facing St. Michael’s Square. At one time, it was one of Ashton’s oldest pubs. Planning permission has been sought for its depubification: that classic double act of Flats and Offices.

There has also been talk of the adjacent Angel being closed. Of historical note is the pub’s tile work and signage, which dates from the era of its original brewery Shaw’s of Dukinfield. Further down the road into Stamford Street by Old Square, The Top End Bar has lost its licence due to COVID-19 breaches. The Caledonia on Warrington Street has also closed with the loss of its Robinsons signage gone. Sadly, all bets seem to be off on depubification. Whilst on the subject of Robbies houses, The Snipe Inn in Audenshaw has been temporarily closed due to antisocial behaviour and the sighting of a cannabis farm upstairs.

In a more positive mood, four pubs managed by the same landlord have taken part in CAMRA’s Great British Virtual Beer Festival. These are The George and Dragon (Bennett Street, Newton), The Cheshire Cheese (Ashton Road/Bennett Street, Newton), The Victoria (Victoria Road, Dukinfield) and The Albion Hotel (Birch Lane/Jeffreys Drive, Dukinfield). At each pub, a guest cask conditioned ale has been added alongside the regular one with, for example, The Albion Hotel taking Cumbria Way as well as the usual Unicorn.

A few yards down Birch Lane, The Wheatsheaf has raised its real ale game a bit more. As well as the usual Banks’ Original, they have added Jennings’ Nightvision (a sort of nursery slope version of another Marstons brand ale, Wychwood’s Hobgoblin). Bombardier (late of Charles Wells, now of Marstons) was also on the pumps. Over in Stalybridge, the iconic Stalybridge Station Buffet Bar has also become well known for crisp butties as well as black peas. Yes, the ultimate in handheld food to go with your pint of Jaipur.

As a welcome antidote to the doom and gloom for Ashton pubgoers, there has been a change of manager at Tapsters. The pub reopened under new management on the 2nd August with Steph and Lee at the helm. Thankfully, they will be dedicated to the real ale cause, opening at 12pm seven days a week. Food is served till 7pm from Monday to Thursday (6pm from Friday to Sunday). For £4.99, you can get a burger with a drink. We wish them every success.

*                     *                    *

Next Month:

Our next Ashton Review of Shops should be out on the 4th September 2021 at 9am UK time. As always, feel free to add anything or correct us in our latest edition. One wonders who might take on the Next unit at Arcades Shopping Centre. Will the spare ground beside Ashton-under-Lyne Interchange (ABS Mark IV) be used for something meaningful? One never knows.

S.V., 07 August 2021.

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