Another chain store closes its Plymouth High Street outlet
THE Blacks outdoor leisure wear store in lower New George Street has closed – adding to a growing list of empty shops in that part of the city centre.
The outlet shut at the weekend and a sign says it has "merged" with the Millets store in upper New George Street.
It is understood most of the Blacks workforce have transferred to the Millets branch.
Both Blacks and Millets, also an outdoor leisure wear retailer, are owned by JD Sports Fashion, which also has a shop in New George Street. But last week JD said it was set to roll out a new store format for troubled Blacks as part of a turnaround plan, which is likely to see sister brand Millets leave the high street.
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JD chief executive Barry Bown last week said the retailer is "debating having a single brand" within its outdoor division.
Staff in Plymouth's Millets told The Herald they were unsure what was going to happen but expected the store to "expand".
JD has now closed about 150 of the Blacks and Millets stores it acquired when it bought Blacks out of administration in January. The outdoor division made a £10million loss in its first half of this year.
The closure comes in the week another troubled clothes retailer, JJB Sports pulled out of Plymouth with the loss of 12 jobs. The chain, which yesterday went into administration, announced it was closing its New George Street outlet last week.
Today was due to be its last trading, but with stock reduced to half price since last Thursday, the store was almost empty on Sunday.
The Blacks and JJB closures bring more empty units to a stretch of the city centre described by city centre manager Clint Jones as creating "a bit of a barrier".
Woolworths, Officers Club, Game, Hawkins Bazaar, Derrys, TJ Hughes and Nectar are just some of the casualties along what was once the city's most bustling shopping stretch.
Last week, JJB manager Jon Evans told The Herald: "We are at the wrong end of town."
And a Millets/Blacks employee said the retail pictured worsened "as soon as you get past the Sun Dial".
However, other parts of the West End of the city centre continue to do good business. Ray Robins, chairman of the Market Traders' Association and Cornwall Street Shopkeepers Association, insisted Cornwall Street remained buoyant and Plymouth City Market, the pannier market, remained about "85 per cent full".
And overall Plymouth has a vacancy rate of just 11 per cent, below the 11.6 per cent national average.