RETAIL bosses say they are confident Birkenhead will weather the storm hitting the UK’s high streets – despite the imminent loss of another big name.
Administrator Deloitte announced last week Birkenhead’s HMV store will be one of 66 of the chain’s shops to close.
Staff said they were told not to comment, but it is understood around 25 jobs will be lost.
Traders said the loss of HMV would be another blow for Birkenhead after the closure of big-hitters like Topshop and Currys.digital – although TJ Hughes has returned and 95 jobs were created through the construction of a new town centre Asda supermarket.
Although neighbouring Cheshire West Council is currently recruiting for a town centre manager for Neston at a salary of £30,000, Birkenhead – traditionally Wirral’s biggest shopping destination – has not had a full-time town centre manager for more than five years.
Keith Raybould, of Wirral Chamber of Commerce, said: “The stores are changing but Birkenhead is still vibrant.
“Companies are consolidating and downsizing. Some are looking at sites which are not on the high street.
“It is sad to see the loss of a big name. It always impacts on a town centre but we can attract others in.
“I hope help will be given to staff to find alternative jobs in the town centre.”
Derek Millar, commercial director for the Grange and Pyramids Shopping Centre, said: “Our thoughts are obviously with the staff of HMV for whom this is a difficult and uncertain time.
“HMV’s situation is a result of underlying problems in the business at a national level and I would emphasise it is not a reflection of the situation at the Grange and Pyramids Centre, where new businesses are continuing to join us.
“Last year we had the welcome return of TJ Hughes with the creation of 60 new jobs and several others have followed suit, both well-known chains such as Toymaster and The Officer’s Club and independents such as BD and Kay.”
Danny Doyle, of Birkenhead Market, said the problems affecting retailers on the UK high street could boost small traders.
He pointed to higher rents on the high street and long leases – in contrast, the market’s shortest available lease is two weeks.
He said: “We have short-term leases so there is that safety net for businesses.
“If it does not work out, we can shake hands and people can walk away. They are not tied into something long-term.
“2011-12 was very tough for us and we did lose some traders but we have worked hard and are starting to see the benefits.
“People are finding they cannot trade in the high street, so they will come to the market.
“Shops in town centres have multiples of the same thing but the market offers something a little bit different.
“As tough as it is, footfall is up and we have 75,000 people in the market every week.”
Birkenhead Cllr Brian Kenny said: “We have to be imaginative to try and attract people into the town centre.
“We were very much involved in bringing Asda back into the town centre because we thought it needed a major supermarket.
“It created a lot of new jobs and it has been very successful.
“Shopping patterns are changing and it’s a sad fact of life that stores like HMV are suffering because of it.”
Cllr Pat Hackett, Wirral Council’s cabinet member for regeneration and planning strategy, said initiatives like Wirral Waters would boost Birkenhead.
He said: “There is no doubt that these are difficult economic times, but we are confident that Birkenhead will continue to benefit from the kind of support that the council and other agencies are putting in.
“Birkenhead has become a Town Team Partnership and has received £10,000 of Government funding through the Department of Communities and Local Government along with a range of other support measures offered by the Association of Town Centre Management.
“We were sad to hear about the problems being experienced by HMV but this is affecting their stores nationwide.
“Birkenhead has recently benefitted from the new Asda store which is providing hundreds of new jobs, and we are confident that the area will also benefit as a result of new initiatives such as the International Trade Centre and Wirral Waters.”