Shop closures 'pure rumour' says High Street Mall manager

THE manager of High Street Mall has dismissed rumours sweeping the town that a number of its stores are to close.

Tracey Jackson said there was absolutely no truth in rumours that Game, Clinton Cards and Box were to close, nor that Dunnes Stores was to be replaced by Asda.

Meanwhile, management from the Streat cafe in the mall also stressed that it will not be closing. They are, rather, looking for a new franchisee for the business which they insist is"doing very well".

Ms Jackson expressed regret at the recent closure of Eason's and Woolworth's, which she described as a "sad loss" to the mall, but added that negotiations were still ongoing with a tenant to replace Eason's.

She also said that a new tenant is poised to take over another unit in the mall in February but that she could not divulge any more details until the lease is signed. "The mall traded well over Christmas, and while all the retailers would like to have done better, footfall was still up on last year," she said.

The credit crunch has undoubtedly taken its tolls on businesses in the town with Adams and O'Brien's cafe also having pulled down the shutters.

There had been fears that the Streat cafe was to be the latest victim, but management this week said that was "definitely not the intention" and pointed out that all its branches had reported increased sales.


Brain Kelly, who is responsible for franchisee recruitment and property acquisition for the Streat group, said the agreement with High Street Mall's previous franchisee had ended last Thursday and the company was now seeking a new franchisee.

"There are four people who are interested in buying the franchise at the moment, two of whom are very serious contenders," he said. "The cafe in Portadown is trading as usual. Once a franchisee goes, we take the cafe back into our fold, until a new buyer is found."

Mr Kelly pointed out that all of the streat's 32 cafes in Northern Ireland, Ireland and Scotland (the first Scottish one opened just before Christmas), had shown increased sales year on year with an average increase in sales of eight per cent throughout November.

He said, " I think that with the credit crunch what we are seeing is people going to cafes like the streat, where they can get quality food, instead of going to more expensive restaurants.

"We choose our franchisees very carefully and we have a very active programme to help them. Franchises are normally for five years and we both have to be mutually happy with the arrangement so we need to make sure we get the right person."

Mr Kelly hopes to have a new franchisee signed up within the next two or three weeks, and he added that the franchisee would undergo a four-week training course before taking over the reins in the Portadown cafe.