Jobs go as two large stores close at Drake Circus shopping centre
PLYMOUTH'S multi-million pound shopping mall is to undergo a stores shake-up after two major retailers confirmed they are to close down.
The huge Zara fashion store in Drake Circus is to close with the loss of 26 jobs, as well as the Bershka fashion unit next door.
But it is understood global computer giant Apple is set to move into the empty space, The Herald can reveal.
Staff at Zara were told they were being made redundant by senior managers, who turned up from London on Tuesday evening.
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Stunned workers said they were informed the double-floor unit will close in just two weeks time, on June 1, and that Apple would be taking over the 15-year lease.
Bershka, also owned by Zara's Spanish parent firm Inditex, is also to close, with the loss of about 10 jobs.
However, another shop is set to open in this unit too. It has not been named but is understood to be a famous name, not currently operating in the South West.
The shock shake-up comes as Zara announced record profits of £1.6billion, up 11 per cent, in March.
Staff in Plymouth said the city store was meeting its targets, but the store's lease had been for sale since 2009.
Workers said they were told Apple made Zara bosses "an offer they couldn't refuse".
However, all the stores involved in the shake-up are remaining tight-lipped.
And there was further bad news for Plymouth's high street last night when the administrators of Clinton Cards announced plans to close 350 stores.
Both of Plymouth's Birthdays stores are to close after the decision to close all of the chain's Birthday sites.
And uncertainty now hangs over Plymouth's three Clinton Cards sites – including its flagship store in Drake Circus – with the administrators last night stating they are planning to close "roughly" 200 Clintons-branded stores.
A Zara spokeswoman would only say Inditex managing director Dilip Patel had "no comment".
Apple did not respond to a request from The Herald for a comment as it went to press.
Drake Circus centre director Greg Lumley confirmed the closures of Zara and Bershka outlets and said: "We have already let the units to two retailers not currently represented in Plymouth."
He does not have a date for when those stores will open but stressed: "They will be opening when they have completed some structural work and done some shopfitting."
City centre manager Clint Jones said: "It's a shame that any store in the city centre is closing, but as far as I'm aware it's being actively let and there will be a tenant in soon."
The arrival of Apple in the huge 21,054sq ft unit may have implications for the mall's nearby Stormfront store, which sells Apple products. At the firm's head office a spokesman said: "We are in discussions with Apple."
Meanwhile, Zara and Bershka staff were today coming to terms with losing their jobs. Employees told The Herald they knew nothing of the plans until Mr Patel's visit, with other senior managers, on Tuesday.
They said they were told Zara (pictured above) was pulling out of Plymouth after Apple bought the lease, which still has nearly 10 years to run.
"Apple made an offer they can't refuse," one worker said. "There were lots of tears, but today it's tantrums. God knows what I'm going to do."
Another staff member added: "A lot of people have been here from the start, six years, and this store is like a family. It's devastating for everyone."