Belper’s fine mix of supermarkets and indie retailers

Former Woolworths (now Iceland), Belper (23 Dec 2010). Photograph by Graham Soult

Former Woolworths (now Iceland), Belper (23 Dec 2010)

Following on from my 2009 visit to Alfreton, Heanor and Ripley in Derbyshire, I was able to pay a fleeting visit this festive season to the nearby town of Belper – famous for its history of textile making, and today part of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site.

Conveniently, the town’s former Woolies (store #725) is right next to the bus station where I arrived, and is not hard to spot. Opened on 20 May 1938, its frontage is almost identical to that of the Alfreton Woolworths (#684), which opened a year earlier.

Side view of former Woolworths (now Iceland), Belper (23 Dec 2010). Photograph by Graham Soult

Side view of former Woolworths (now Iceland), Belper (23 Dec 2010)

Like the North East Woolies sites in Hexham and Morpeth, Belper was one of the first stores to be taken over by another retailer, as part of the package of 51 sites acquired by Iceland just three days after the final Woolworths stores closed down. For a town with a compact centre and a population of little more than 20,000, this does mean that Belper has four decent-sized supermarkets – Iceland, Haldanes, Midlands Co-op and a large Morrisons – within a short distance of one another. On this basis, you do have to question – as campaigners already are doing – whether the town’s potential 80,000 sq ft edge-of-centre Tesco superstore is really necessary.

Haldanes, Belper (23 Dec 2010). Photograph by Graham Soult

Haldanes, Belper (23 Dec 2010)

With Haldanes’ fledgling chain – currently comprised entirely of former Co-op/Somerfield sites – stalled for the moment at 23 stores, Belper was the first opportunity I’d had to see one of its shops. Overall, I felt that the Belper Haldanes’ bright frontage and tasteful fascia made a positive impression on King Street, though I was less convinced by the (albeit timely) window display of windscreen wash and de-icer, or by the store’s broken signage.

Broken sign at Haldanes, Belper (23 Dec 2010). Photograph by Graham Soult

Broken sign at Haldanes, Belper (23 Dec 2010)

For items other than groceries, Belper is less well served by big-name chains or large stores: there is a branch of Wilkinson next to Iceland – plugging much of the hole left by Woolies – as well as the De Bradelei department store, housed in a lovely former mill building next to Morrisons.

Shops in King Street, Belper (23 Dec 2010). Photograph by Graham Soult

Shops in King Street, Belper (23 Dec 2010)

However, the town’s predominance of attractive-looking independent shops is a strength that could perhaps be made more of. While admiring the imposing buildings that line the steeply climbing King Street, I spotted plenty of interesting and inviting indie stores, such as Sweet Memories (an old-fashioned confectioners), Cooper’s pork and beef butchers, and the Hall of Frames gallery, housed in part of the Victorian Belper Public Hall.

Hall of Frames in the Belper Public Hall building (23 Dec 2010). Photograph by Graham Soult

Hall of Frames in the Belper Public Hall building (23 Dec 2010)

Belper may not have a huge retail offer, but it makes up for it with character and charm. I’ll hope to return in the future – but preferably on a day when there’s a bit less snow, a bit more sunshine, and when the outside temperature is the right side of freezing…

4 Responses to “Belper’s fine mix of supermarkets and indie retailers”

  1. Soult's Retail View » Blog Archive » Can anyone remember Ashbourne’s long-closed Woolworths? said:

    Jan 11, 11 at 12:21

    [...] it’s close to my family roots in Derbyshire, and only 12 miles from Belper, where I visited a couple of weeks ago, I’ve no recollection of ever visiting Ashbourne. However, it’s definitely on my list [...]

  2. Soult's Retail View » Blog Archive » Asda’s sale of surplus Netto stores: who gets what in the North East said:

    Jan 13, 11 at 17:09

    [...] last week, I remarked that Haldanes’ expansion seemed to have stalled, after an initial period of rapid and spectacular growth. Only launched as a company in October [...]

  3. Soult's Retail View » 5-7 Southgate Street, Launceston – historic birthplace and former Woolworths [updated] said:

    May 28, 11 at 17:25

    [...] that between the opening of Redcar (#275, and one of the early examples of the design) in 1927 and Belper (#725, and one of the last) in 1938, Woolworths’ store count grew by 450 shops – an astonishing rate of growth, even by [...]

  4. Soult's Retail View » Monmouth’s ex-Woolies and its place in our retail heritage said:

    Apr 09, 12 at 09:30

    [...] Woolies from the chain’s heyday. Its appearance is very similar, for example, to the Belper store from 1938 (#725, below) that I visited in December 2010, or the Alfreton store (#684, opened 1937) that [...]


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