CONCERNS have been raised after a key city centre retailer announced it is set to close.
Somerfield supermarket, which is owned by The Co-operative, will cease trading at the Forum Shopping Centre on Wednesday, November 21, with 23 staff members now uncertain about their futures.
The closure of the supermarket, which has been blamed on poor trading figures, has raised concerns about the Forum’s future and the impact the closure will have on nearby Chester Market.
A Co-operative Food spokesman said: ““Staff have been informed of the decision, which has been taken with the greatest reluctance. It is not in any way a reflection on the commitment and hard work of the store team.
“Every effort is being made to redeploy as many as possible of the 23 members of staff with The Co-operative or to help them find alternative employment.”
The decision is another blow to the shopping centre, which last year saw one of its major outlets, TJ Hughes, close down.
Any reduction in footfall as a result of the closure of Somerfield could also have wider implications for Chester Market, with the main entrance accessed through the Forum.
Geoff Hughes, who owns and runs Geoff Hughes Family Butcher in the market, said: “It’s certainly not a good thing that Somerfield is closing. Any lack of footfall coming through the Forum is something that needs to be addressed as it could have a knock-on effect for other businesses.
“When TJ Hughes closed down, we didn’t really feel the impact of it to be honest.
We will have to wait and see whether Somerfield closing down has any effect on footfall and for our trade.”
Forum Shopping Centre manager Lawrence Allen remains upbeat and says the shopping centre will be able to bounce back from this setback.
He said: “It is without doubt a shame Somerfield are closing down as they and their staff have been in the shopping centre a long time and have been popular with customers.
“We haven’t seen a dip in footfall in our stores since the closure of TJ Hughes last year and it is on a par compared to the same time last year, so in that sense we are pleased.
“We are confident about the future of the Forum and we have new tenants ready to move in as early as next week in some of our units, so we are hoping a drop in footfall won’t be too much of a problem.”
Samantha Dixon, Cheshire West and Chester councillor for the city centre, said: “It is really disappointing news. Somerfield was well used by many from inside and outside the city, including many elderly people.
“I will be following up the matter to ensure council workers work with market traders to ensure they get the help and support they need to remain strong.
“There has been a lot of good work done to increase footfall and it would be a terrible shame to see that work come undone."
“I am a regular visitor to the market and engage with traders frequently. We have to ensure we sustain the health of the market and make sure it is the first port of call for those arriving at the bus station.”
See full story in the Chester Leader