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Fenwick Newcastle’s autumn window impresses – but WHSmith opposite falls short

Autumn window at Fenwick, Newcastle (14 Oct 2013). Photograph by Graham Soult

Autumn window at Fenwick, Newcastle (14 Oct 2013)

Newcastle’s iconic Fenwick department store is rightly known for its annual Christmas window – which can’t, scarily, be very far off making its appearance for 2013.

Last year I captured the Christmas window being set up on 30 October (below), so on that basis we can expect to see festive activity kicking off in Northumberland Street in just a week’s … Continue Reading

Good news for Sunderland as fashion store Utopia takes over ex-Peacocks

Utopia (ex-Peacocks), Sunderland (18 Oct 2013). Photograph by Graham Soult

Utopia (ex-Peacocks), Sunderland (18 Oct 2013)

Sunderland’s ex-Peacocks unit in The Bridges is finally to be reoccupied, after more than 18 months of vacancy.

The prominent Market Square store was one of ten North East branches that closed following Edinburgh Woollen Mill’s rescue of 400 Peacocks stores in February last year. Now, after months of … Continue Reading

North East stores invade London as Metro Outlet heads to Croydon’s ex-Allders

Metro Outlet, Gateshead (11 Jul 2013). Photograph by Graham Soult

Metro Outlet, Gateshead (11 Jul 2013)

In the same month that Middlesbrough-based furniture institution Barker and Stonehouse has opened its first London store, in Battersea, it’s been revealed that another firm with a former Boro connection and a current Gateshead one – the discount department store Metro Outlet – is to open in the iconic former Allders store in Croydon, … Continue Reading

“The high street needs to adapt and evolve”: Retailer Q&A with Havens department store

Ground-floor gift department at Havens, Westcliff-on-Sea (24 Sep 2010). Photograph courtesy of Havens

Ground-floor gift department at Havens, Westcliff-on-Sea (24 Sep 2010). Photograph courtesy of Havens

The traditional, independent department store has been a fixture of the British high street for generations – yet look around, and you could be forgiven for thinking its days were numbered.

From the current … Continue Reading

Now Lincolnshire Co-op is to exit non-food – but a “bright future” under new ownership is promised

Lincolnshire Co-op website (30 Jan 2013). Photograph by Graham Soult

Lincolnshire Co-op website (30 Jan 2013)

Just one week after Midlands Co-op announced the closure of its department stores, another Midlands-based consumer co-op – the Lincolnshire Co-operative – has revealed that it too is to exit non-food.

However, where Midlands Co-op’s … Continue Reading

As eight Midlands Co-op department stores face closure, what might the future hold?

Co-op department store, Chesterfield (10 Nov 2011). Photograph by Graham Soult

Co-op department store, Chesterfield (10 Nov 2011)

Midlands Co-op has become the latest co-operative society to exit non-food, with its announcement today that eight Fashion & Home department stores are to close within six months.

Most of the affected stores are in the East Midlands, including five full-line department stores – badged as Fashion & Home – … Continue Reading

New Jacques Vert concession launched as Tamworth Co-op’s department store looks to the future

New Jacques Vert Group concession at Tamworth Co-op (21 Dec 2012). Photograph by Graham Soult

New Jacques Vert Group concession at Tamworth Co-op (21 Dec 2012)

Tamworth shoppers now have access to a raft of Jacques Vert Group womenswear brands, following the opening of a new upmarket outlet concession in the town’s Co-op department store last Saturday (22 December).

As well as the eponymous Jacques Vert brand, the first floor department also features the group’s long-established Planet, … Continue Reading

Middlesbrough’s TJ Hughes confirms 3 October reopening date – with Birkenhead to follow

TJ Hughes, Middlesbrough (12 Sep 2012). Photograph by Graham Soult

TJ Hughes, Middlesbrough (12 Sep 2012)

TJ Hughes, the discount department store chain, has announced that its Middlesbrough store will reopen next week, at 10am on Wednesday 3 October.

Under the heading ‘We’re back!”, window posters at the store have been trumpeting an ‘October 2012′ reopening for the last few weeks, but … Continue Reading

Carlisle’s Hoopers bids “a fond farewell” on its final day of trading

"Goodbye Sale" at Hoopers Carlisle

“Goodbye Sale” at Hoopers Carlisle

Hoopers, the upmarket Carlisle department store whose closure was announced in May, is to finally shut at the close of trade today (Saturday 25 August).

As reported by BBC News, notices went up instore and on the … Continue Reading

Lichfield gets a boost as Debenhams takes over city’s ex-TJ Hughes

TJ Hughes, Lichfield, prior to closure (19 Mar 2010). Photograph by Graham Soult

TJ Hughes, Lichfield, prior to closure (19 Mar 2010)

The confirmation that Debenhams will be opening up in Lichfield’s former TJ Hughes store in March 2013 is great news for the city, and should give a big footfall boost to neighbouring retailers.

The … Continue Reading

Still hope for Hoopers Carlisle as talks continue

Hoopers, Carlisle (9 May 2012). Photograph by Graham Soult

Hoopers, Carlisle (9 May 2012)

Talks that could result in the rescue of Hoopers department store in Carlisle are still ongoing, I understand, three months on from the announcement of the store’s likely closure.

The store, which became part of the five-strong Hoopers chain in 2006, was initially earmarked for closure on 23 … Continue Reading

Breaking news: TJ Hughes to return to Middlesbrough as Metro Outlet makes way

Ex-TJ Hughes, Middlesbrough, prior to arrival of Metro Outlet (30 Sep 2011). Photograph by Graham Soult

Ex-TJ Hughes, Middlesbrough, prior to arrival of Metro Outlet (30 Sep 2011)

TJ Hughes is to reopen its store in Middlesbrough’s Captain Cook Square, it has been confirmed.

The move comes almost exactly a year after the store … Continue Reading

The closure of Hoopers department store in Carlisle, and what might replace it

Hoopers, Carlisle (9 May 2012). Photograph by Graham Soult

Hoopers, Carlisle (9 May 2012)

The recent news that Hoopers in Carlisle is to close is clearly a disappointing development for the city, but it’s also very sad for anyone – like me – who values the role that independent department stores play on our high streets.

Across the country, the big three department store chains … Continue Reading

Celebrating Britain’s indie department stores: Atkinsons, Banburys and Barkers

Browns' iconic York store (17 Jul 2010). Photograph by Graham Soult

Browns' iconic York store (17 Jul 2010)

Among all the retail gloom that the newspapers seem to like writing about, it was refreshing to read last week that Browns of York is to open a new department store in Gainsborough, with the creation of … Continue Reading

Metro Outlet takes over Middlesbrough’s TJ Hughes site, but ex-TJ’s elsewhere remain empty

Existing Metro Outlet in Gateshead (25 Mar 2011). Photograph by Graham Soult

Existing Metro Outlet in Gateshead (25 Mar 2011)

Middlesbrough had some retail good news on Saturday, as a new store opened its doors in the town’s former TJ Hughes premises – following on from the … Continue Reading

Soult’s Retail Loo: Darlington House of Fraser spruces up its facilities

House of Fraser (Binns), Darlington (1 Mar 2011). Photograph by Graham Soult

House of Fraser (Binns), Darlington (1 Mar 2011)

It’s not one of my most well-read posts, but some of you may remember my blog from last March about the disappointing state of the toilet facilities in Darlington’s landmark House of Fraser (Binns) store.

While at first glance it might … Continue Reading

Interview: Isabel Macdonald, Branch Manager, John Lewis at Home Tamworth

Isabel Macdonald outside her new store

Isabel Macdonald outside her new store

Tamworth’s new John Lewis at Home opened its doors on Wednesday (12 October), eight months after I broke the news of its impending arrival.

The 42,000 sq ft shop at the edge-of-town Ventura Park is John Lewis’s sixth in the ‘at Home’ format, following the opening of stores in Poole, Croydon, Swindon (which I … Continue Reading

As Stratford City opens, I check out John Lewis’s answers to the lack of other new schemes

John Lewis fascia. Photograph by Graham Soult

John Lewis fascia

As the vast Westfield Stratford City opens its doors today, it’s little wonder that most of Twitter’s retail commentators seem to have decamped to east London. With 300 stores (though not yet all open) and a floor area of 1.9m sq ft (177,000 sqm), the opening of “Europe’s largest urban shopping … Continue Reading

Newcastle’s TJ Hughes is saved – but Middlesbrough’s is to close within days

Newcastle's TJ Hughes (8 Aug 2011). Photograph by Graham Soult

Newcastle's TJ Hughes (8 Aug 2011)

There was good news for Newcastle city centre earlier this week, with the announcement that the TJ Hughes store in Grainger Street had been sold, preventing the loss of 76 jobs. However, the … Continue Reading

How to loos customers – and send your brand image down the pan

Not what you expect in an upmarket department store. Photograph by Graham Soult

Not what you expect in an upmarket department store

Apologies for the Richard Whiteley-style headline and the rather gruesome photograph, but if Mary Portas was looking for another retail-related programme idea she could do worse than turn her attention to customer toilet facilities – celebrating the good and exposing the horrible.

Customer loos are a staple of most department stores, and a necessity for those that … Continue Reading