Blockbuster closure and HMV crisis give fresh ammunition to St Helens town centre critics (From St Helens Star)
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Blockbuster closure and HMV crisis give fresh ammunition to St Helens town centre critics
7:00pm Thursday 24th January 2013 in News
ST HELENS’ town centre suffered a fresh blow following confirmation that its Blockbuster store will close.
The administrator of the collapsed DVD and games rental firm announced it is to close 129 of its 528 stores.
St Helens’ Bridge Street store was among those that will be axed, with around five jobs expected to be lost.
The administrator said a programme is in place to help staff find other jobs.
The prospect of another empty store will add fuel to the critics who continue to write off the town centre and criticise the emergence of budget stores and charity shops.
It will leave another store empty following the closure of Comet on King Street in December – after its financial meltdown – and Curry’s decision to withdraw from Church Street and consolidate at its megastore at the Ravenhead Retail Park.
Doubts also hang over HMV in Church Square after the national music store went into administration last week.
The town’s major camera stores have also shut in recent years.
The boom in online shopping – particularly for electrical goods – and digital downloads are cited as a key reason for the demise of what were once permanent fixtures on the British High Street.
Blockbuster had struggled to adapt to the changing market and rivalry from internet retailers including Netflix, Sky, Amazon’s LoveFilm and iTunes, which now offer a movie rental service.
When the closures are discussed collectively, it gives plenty of ammunition to the Poundland critics.
However, statistics surrounding vacant shops reveal that St Helens town centre is faring better now than it was in 2009, bucking the national trend.
Of all the 319 units identified in St Helens, within the primary shopping area, 25 retail shops were vacant compared to 27 in June 2009.
And, while many of the high street chains are enduring difficulties nationwide, the independent shopping sector in St Helens remains robust. The owners of department store Tyrers and OD’s are both investing in the town.
Entrepreneurs are also investing in once disused buildings and turning them in to commercial hubs, with the former Orange House pub, on Duke Street, having been converted into retail units and a restaurant.
The Range, a home and leisure retailer, also opened last autumn to fill the former supermarket at Chalon Way.