A postcard from Caernarfon’s closed down Woolies
I’m not quite sure if it should be a cause for celebration or urgent self-reflection when my friends start emailing over photographs of old Woolworths that they have spotted on their travels… Whichever, many thanks to Sally Daffarn for capturing this shot of the former Woolies in Caernarfon, which she “saw on holiday and thought of you!”
Caernarfon is one of the North East Woolworths sites that I didn’t get to when I was over there in September last year, and it’s interesting to see that it’s still empty and looking a little worse for wear by now. I can only assume that plans to convert the building into two shops, office accommodation and flats – announced in April last year – have fallen through.
For the moment at least, it means that Caernarfon’s Woolworths is one of a dwindling number that are still vacant, more than 18 months on from the retailer’s high profile collapse.
Indeed, of the six North Wales Woolies that I saw in September, four were already reoccupied back then, by Publishers Book Clearance (Llandudno), Home Bargains (Prestatyn), The Original Factory Shop (Porthmadog) and B&M Bargains (Rhyl) – a pretty good snapshot of the types of retailers that have taken over Woolies sites across the UK as a whole.
I understand, however, that Publishers Book Clearance in Llandudno has closed down within the last few days due to the end of its temporary lease. I’m not clear whether any other retailer is lined up to move in. [UPDATE, 21 July 2010: There's a story about the closure of the store in today's North Wales Pioneer, which seems to confirm that no new tenant is in place yet.]
As for the two old Woolies stores that were empty when I visited – Colwyn Bay and Holyhead – I can’t find any evidence of either being occupied since.
Interestingly, The Original Factory Shop has recently announced plans to open in Colwyn Bay, but on the site of The Litten Tree pub in Station Road (still open when I visited) – despite the firm’s marketing director noting that “we have taken over a lot of the old Woolworths sites across the UK.”
Meanwhile, it sounds like Holyhead’s high level of voids – which already included Woolies, Kwik Save and many others – has been further compounded by the loss of its Ethel Austin. However, it’s positive to read that the town is receiving funding from both the EU and the Welsh Assembly Government “in a bid to create jobs, win back shoppers and build on tourism projects”, and that “Anglesey County Council is inviting expressions of interest from those wishing to improve, develop, or occupy vacant premises in Holyhead Town Centre.”
For all the vacant units, I felt that Holyhead had a great deal of charm and character when I visited last year, and was let down by some really unappealing and neglected buildings. Hopefully initiatives like the one that’s underway can tackle these barriers to investment, helping the town turn the corner, and encouraging it to become the vibrant place that would befit its status as a major ferry gateway into the UK.