End of an era as Co-op proposes closure of store
STAFF, customers and business leaders have expressed their shock at plans by Midlands Co-operative Society to shut its Derby department store.
The Exchange Street outlet is one of nine home and fashion department stores in the region that have been earmarked for closure over the next six months.
Other Derbyshire department stores affected include Ilkeston, which employs 59 people, and Chesterfield, which has 114.
The Long Eaton Bed Centre, in Cross Street, which the Midland Co-op owns, is also scheduled to close with the loss of four jobs.
The plans would affect 64 staff in Derby. In total, 388 people work in the affected stores – 241 in Derbyshire.
One female member of staff said: "I've worked here for seven years. I'll be sad to see it go."
A male colleague added: "The closure seemed to be sudden. We've not heard too much about the trouble the company was in. It's a shame the Co-op is closing."
Shopper Christine Swaine, 60, of Warwick Avenue, Littleover, said: "The Co-op has been here years. Since I was a girl, there's always been a Co-op.
"I regularly shop at the department store. I bought my daughter's Christmas present from there last year.
"When I buy electrical things, I always come to the store. It's so reliable and the staff are really helpful."
Fred and Dorothy Lovell, of Beech Avenue, Borrowash, were shopping at the store yesterday.
Mr Lovell, 68, said: "It's a real landmark in the town. I can remember when a lot of the shops around here were owned by the Co-op.
"All the staff are really friendly but it's not a surprise that it's closing. The shop isn't all that busy these days."
Mrs Lovell, 71, said: "When I was young, I used to work in the Co-op in Walsall. We've shopped at the Derby store for decades.
"It's a big part of people's lives and I will be sad to see it go."
Sheila Kempston, 70, of Brookfield Avenue, Chaddesden, said: "I never thought that it would shut down. I just thought it would always be there.
"It will be bad for Derby but it will be terrible for Ilkeston. You really do look around and think, who is next?"
Lynn and Keith Flux, of Devonshire Drive, Duffield, have shopped at the Derby Co-op for years.
Mrs Flux said: "The Co-op used to be enormous.
"But I don't come in as much I used to. It doesn't have the things that I want any more.
"To be honest, it looks tacky in comparison to what it used to be like."
Mr Flux said: "The toy shop used to be fantastic. The shop played a really big part in people's childhoods."
As well as fashion and home department stores, Midlands Co-op also owns food stores, motor dealerships and funeral homes, which will be unaffected.
The Co-op's Ilkeston site includes a food store, Post Office, cafe and travel agency. At this stage, their future remain unclear.
Chief executive Martyn Cheatle said that, while other areas of the business were flourishing, the firm's department stores had been hit by the growth in online shopping.
He said the Co-op had suffered "substantial losses" in fashion and home for more than a decade.
It is understood that the first stores could close in April. The society said that all orders and gift vouchers would be honoured.
Shopworkers' union Usdaw said it was seeking urgent talks with management from Midlands Co-op.
General secretary John Hannett said: "This is devastating news for our members and its impact will be felt throughout the localities.
"We will be doing all we can to consider alternatives to compulsory redundancies and will look at how many of the workers can be re-deployed to other sites within the Co-op."
The closure of the Exchange Street store is another blow for Derby's high street.
Last week, music chain HMV called in administrators. Its Derby store is directly opposite the Co-op department store, in neighbouring Albion Street.
The city has also been rocked by the closure of camera chain Jessops, which had a store at The Spot, and the administration of video chain Blockbuster, which has outlets throughout Derby.
Speaking about the closure of the Co-op store, Christina Giljohann, manager of the Argento jewellery store in East Street, said: "It's a real blow for the rest of the street. It's going to be really quiet.
"We all get on really well with the staff there and I feel so sorry for them."
George Cowcher, chief executive of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Chamber of Commerce, said: "This is another big loss for the high street. It's a stark reminder of the climate that many retailers are operating in.
"A big issue here is what will happen to the buildings these stores occupy.
"Many of them are large, old buildings which have been occupied for decades and may not be an attractive proposition to potential investors. We don't want to see them becoming a blight on the high street."
Speaking about the proposed closure of the Ilkeston and Long Eaton stores, Helen Clark, chairman of Erewash Labour Local Government Committee, said: "This is absolutely devastating news.
"The Co-op is not just about stores, it represents an ethos. It is a business that has a very long and proud tradition in Derbyshire.
"The amount of retail jobs being lost is a major concern. Ilkeston will not be the same without the Co-op department store."