ALTHOUGH it is too late to save Cochranes and Clays, traders believe more closures are on the way unless action is taken.
Optician Ghaf Uddin of The Eye Emporium says he has considered closing after 10 years trading in The Mall. With a 15% downturn in trade last year, 2008 will be a make-or-break year for his shop.
He said: “Chester is a dying town. Liverpool and Manchester had reinvestment – Chester is living by its name.
“It has been a tough year. Less footfall and high rates and rents have put a strain on the business.
“Closing definitely has crossed my mind as the business can’t carry on as it is. It’s phenomenal – what we’re paying for and what we’re getting is penalising independence. If they were reasonable, none of the shop units would be empty – The Mall has not been proactive.”
Mr Uddin estimated the shop opposite him had been empty on and off for two years. He was also worried about the impact of Clays and Cochranes disappearing, especially with very few shoppers coming to Chester for the sales.
He added: “We’re in the process of talking to The Mall and they’re surprisingly receptive. We’ll see how they are in six months time.”
Tony Austin-Kaye of Kayes jewellers, a Chester shop for 44 years, believes the city should focus on independent boutique shops and said: “We’re working harder than ever just to stand still. Chester’s nice but it could suddenly go if everyone pulls out. My experience is they’re finding it harder to fill the properties with the type of shop they want.
“People come into Chester to treat themselves and want to bring their cars. Clients from Oswestry say they’re going to other places where they can park in front of the shop.
“Chester needs to be husbanded, asking what the character is and what fits with that. We don’t need House of Fraser. There’s too much choice around for Chester to be complacent – nothing goes on forever and it could die.”