Beales “lodges formal notice of interest” in buying Robbs
It seems like it’s not just me who thinks that Beales taking over Robbs would be a good idea, with today’s Hexham Courant reporting that the Bournemouth-based department store operator “has lodged formal notice of interest in the store with administrators MCR”.
The article adds that “representatives of Beales were looking round the property yesterday”. Meanwhile, MCR has reportedly asked the owners of the Robbs building, the Buccleuch Group, and Northumberland County Council to waive the property’s rent and rates for the next ten weeks, on the basis that keeping the store open longer as a going concern will facilitate its possible sale.
Of course, as the Courant itself observes, this is still far from a done deal and there is no certainty that Robbs will be saved; however, Beales formally registering its interest is a significant and promising development. If nothing else, it confirms that Robbs is not a completely lost cause if a respected national retailer, with 120 years’ experience of running department stores, is at the point of taking a good look at the opportunity.
As I reported before, a sticking point to any takeover could be Buccleuch Group’s own, medium-term development plans for the Robbs site. However, it’s hard to imagine Buccleuch turning down the opportunity to secure Beales as a tenant, given the investment and long-term commitment to Hexham that would surely follow – a much more satisfactory scenario than has been the case under Vergo Retail’s tenancy.
Let’s hope that further, positive developments are swift in coming. The Chairman of Hexham Community Partnership, quoted in the Courant’s article, is right that Robbs’ fate needs to be resolved as speedily as possible, one way or another, so that the future of the town is not left in limbo.
I also agree, however, with Hexham’s new MP, Guy Opperman, who argues that any initiative to help secure a new buyer for Robbs should be encouraged. Given the glimmer of hope that now exists, he’s quite right that all concerned – MCR, Northumberland County Council, Buccleuch Group, the wider community – should use whatever influence and power they have to deliver a positive outcome for Robbs, its staff, and for Hexham.