Chesterfield to lose iconic store

Coop buildingHistoric Store Faces Closure

MP for North East Derbyshire Natascha Engel has expressed her sadness at the news that Chesterfield Cooperative Department Store on Elder Way has been earmarked for closure.

Commenting Natascha said:

“This will be a difficult time for staff employed at the store and a little more history will disappear from the streets of Chesterfield.  This decision is a clear reminder that a lot needs to be done to restore health to our High Streets and town centres.  The Government needs to look seriously at the big names that have been lost in recent weeks and take action to address the crisis on our High Streets.” 

Natascha writes for Derbyshire Times:

This week we heard that Chesterfield’s Co-op Department store is to close. The news will have come as a shock not only to the 80 or so people who work there, but to the whole town. A much-loved store familiar to everyone will be felt as a great loss.

The announcement comes in the wake of recent other town-centre closures, the latest of which is Comet, Jessops and HMV. Town centres like Chesterfield are facing the double-whammy of recession and “changes in retail habits”, in the words of the Chief Executive of the Midlands Co-operative. Old-fashioned department stores just can’t survive.

Mary Portas recently wrote a report on the plight of our high streets and town centres. It made bleak reading. There are numerous reasons why our town centres are emptying: out-of-town retail centres and the growth of supermarkets (more like hypermarkets these days) are attracting more shoppers, and the use of the internet to buy at any time of day or night and have everything delivered to our door.

But this announcement should be a wake-up call to all of us. Our high streets and town centres are more than just places where we shop for the things we need. They are the heart of our communities, and with every shop that shuts, we lose something more than just a retail unit.

In her report, Mary Portas says: “The days of a high street populated simply by independent butchers, bakers and candlestick makers are, except in the most exceptional circumstances, over. How we shop as a nation has quite simply changed beyond recognition. Forever.”

Well, in Chesterfield we are exceptional with our independent butchers and bakers. And if you look hard enough in the market, I’m sure you could find a candlestick maker. We must make sure that we don’t lose the treasure that is the Chesterfield town centre.

And we have to make sure that we work more closely together to replace what has gone with something that does meet our “changes in retail habits”.

Nostalgia can sometimes get in the way of practical action, yearning for a golden era gone by. And yet it is important to remember what is gone.

And while we remember, we should think of the 80 people who work at the department store, many of whom have been there for most of their lives, who now face an uncertain future. And that’s down to the government. It needs to rethink its economic strategy and start delivering jobs and growth so that more shops open for people to work and browse in.

The best way Chesterfield can preserve its jewel in the crown is for the government to help councils and private landlords develop their town centres. That would be a great way to honour the memory of Chesterfield’s largest and oldest department store and a practical solution to helping the people who work there find other jobs.

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