B&M Bargains heads to Burton – but where next?
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Many thanks to Lee Dymond and Martin, who both emailed me about the news of B&M Bargains opening in the former Woolworths store in Burton, Staffordshire. As I mentioned last month, the 11,000 sq ft Coopers Square unit has remained empty since Woolworths’ closure more than two years ago, but this has always seemed surprising given the shop’s busy location in a relatively modern indoor mall environment.
The news merely reinforces B&M’s status as one of the real profiters from Woolworths’ collapse, having snapped up tens of ex-Woolies stores across the country, including the one in nearby Lichfield.
In the North East too, B&M has been rapidly expanding its presence by mopping up space that would never normally have become available, including large units in Stockton town centre, Whitley Bay and Chester-le-Street and, most recently, a portion of the old Big W at Portrack Lane.
Back in August, The Local Data Company suggested that 150 ex-Woolworths stores “may never be used as shops again” – a figure that, if true, would equate to almost one fifth of the former Woolies store estate.
I’ve always been slightly sceptical of these pessimistic projections, particularly given that my own research shows that 88% (45) of the 51 ex-Woolies sites across the North East, Cumbria and North Yorkshire have already been reoccupied for retail use.
Though the initial flood of new occupants for ex-Woolies sites has inevitably dwindled as the number of available sites reduces, B&M’s takeover of the Burton unit shows that demand has not yet dried up. Indeed, news reports from across the UK over the last few weeks show other discount retailers still on the ex-Woolies acquisition trail, such as The Original Factory Shop in Bargoed and the son-of-Ethel-Austin chain Life & Style in Swansea.
Of the six former Woolies locations that remain empty in the North East, four – Peterlee, Wallsend, Hartlepool and Middlesbrough – already have a B&M store in the town centre or on a nearby retail park. However, with B&M Bargains not yet having a presence in Newcastle city centre, it wouldn’t surprise me if the vacant Clayton Street Woolies site was a target for the retailer in the coming months.
Despite the nearby extension of Eldon Square, and the recent arrival of some interesting independent shops and restaurants, Clayton Street remains very much a secondary, discount-led location, with Poundstretcher, charity shops, nail bars and the ubiquitous BrightHouse among its main draws.
With its in-your-face signage and minimal shop makeovers, B&M Bargains is not everyone’s first choice as a Woolies replacement. However, no-one can dispute the business’s recent success, and it’s certainly time for something to liven up a stretch of Clayton Street that has been empty and lifeless for far too long.