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Southport retailers enjoyed the chance to discuss issues affecting their industry with local MP Damien Moore

ON Tuesday, 13 July 2021, an event hosted by Southport Business Improvement District took place that allowed Southport's retailers the chance to discuss issues affecting their industry with local MP Damien Moore. These events are regularly attended by representatives from shops including:- M&S, Primark, Boots, River Island, Flannels, Nationwide Bank, TK Maxx, William Hill, plus businesses from Ocean Plaza and Central 12 retail parks and many others.

Southport MP Damien Moore said:- "With lockdown restrictions ending on 19 July 2021, it was good to speak with national retailers who are currently invested in Southport to discuss their experiences of the Pandemic and how we can build back better. Southport was recently successful in being granted a ₤37.5m Town Deal from the Government, which will see more retailers seeing our Town as an exciting and attractive destination to invest in. Last week we heard that Beales will be reopening in the Town, and I am hoping many other national retailers will follow in their footsteps."

During the meetings, key businesses discussed matters important to Southport. At Tuesday's event the forum focused on the complex relationship that retailers now manage between online shopping and shopping in store.

It was highlighted that the success of the High Street lies in personal customer service, providing expertise and facilitating a pleasant experience for a person shopping in a store versus the impersonal experience consumers get when shopping online which are often accompanied by customer unfriendly returns policies.

When shopping in stores, customers often have access to the items online via internal systems, receive benefits of the online shopping plus support and expertise of the store employees.

Southport BID CEO Rachel Fitzgerald said:- "Our retailers are very grateful to their customers who supported them during the past challenging year and a ˝. The retailers, both national brands and our local retailers, are a crucial part of our Town. Southport's residents have the power in their hands to ensure that Southport has a thriving High Street. Businesses are investing in our Town by having a presence here, and providing jobs for local people. Together we need to continue to be confident in our Town, we need to keep investing and Southport will be the Town that we all want and deserve."

Beales owner reveals exciting changes for shoppers as new department store opens in Southport

BEALES department store will reveal a very new look when it opens its doors to shoppers in Southport. Feverish building work and shop refitting is currently going on behind the doors of the landmark Lord Street building, part of the historic Wayfarers Arcade, ready for when it opens in August 2021. Beales will employ around 40 members of staff and is making a much anticipated return to Southport following a total investment of around ₤800,000.

Beales closed its doors in March last year as the Covid Pandemic hit the UK and the firm went into administration, the same month that Debenhams also closed in a double blow to Lord Street and to Southport. Beales operated 26 stores at the time. The brand is now owned by New Start 2020 and headed up by Tony Brown, Chief Executive of the former Beales. Last year he opened Beales in Poole, followed by Peterborough earlier this year with Southport due to be their 3rd store. Making Southport the firm's third venture is a huge vote of confidence in the future of retail for the busy seaside resort. It will undoubtedly act as a catalyst for other businesses to open in Southport, with the news being revealed in the same week that Mikhail Hotel and Leisure Group announced its planned conversion of the Grand Casino building further along Lord Street into a luxury hotel and wedding venue.

Tony Brown said:- "This is a new concept for Beales, 1 which we have launched in our stores in Poole and Peterborough where it has proved to be really successful. I honestly believe that customers want to see a local department store opening in Southport again. The old department store model is broken, because it was too costly to maintain. We now have a new model which is predominantly concession driven. Around 90% of the new store will be concessions, and we have some exciting brands coming in. We had a queue of brands wanting to come to Southport, which is really positive. We have most of them already signed up, but are looking for a furniture concession to join us. We will try to offer a different experience to shoppers while also providing something for different age profiles. 1 concession joining us will be Forever New, a very popular Australian brand, which is really exciting for us. We will have the biggest footwear outlet in Southport, and will also open a new chiropody shop and treatment rooms with state of the art equipment. In Time watch repairs, which is based in Southport, will have a section here. We are looking to open a cafe downstairs, enjoying the beautiful views into Wayfarers Arcade, so people don't have to climb up to the top floor where it used to be. We will be selling perfumes here, but not cosmetics any more."

Other concessions will include:- fashion; homewear; bathroom accessories; luggage; electrical; seasonal; and many more. Brands will include: Forever New, Brakeburn, Crew, Craghoppers, Regatta, Caribou, Harveys Luggage and others. Tony Brown said:- "In both stores we have opened we have reached out to local brands, and we are doing the same with Southport. If there is someone out there with a really good idea, maybe someone working from home making gifts or gift foods and they want somewhere to start up, then we can support them to do that. In Peterborough we have someone selling Bees Wrap, which is an environmentally friendly alternative to clingfilm. We also have someone selling Mexican tequila and gift foods. We encourage local businesses to come in and give it a go."

The new store will provide some welcome employment opportunities in Southport. Tony Brown said:- "We should have around 40 people working here when we open, a mixture between full time and part time. We want to give priority to people we know and people who have worked with us before, and we are delighted to see some of our former employees coming back to join us again. Our Store Manager when we open, Steve Williams, used to be the deputy here. We will have some new blood with us as well. We are also backing the Government's Kick Start Scheme, so we can give young people the opportunity to gain some experience and learn all about retail. Once we open, we are looking forward to seeing more new businesses coming into Wayfarers Arcade. I think we will become a catalyst for even more growth and investment in Southport, I certainly hope so."

Some other positive changes are already taking place in the Town. A total of ₤1million in Town Deal acceleration last year has supported the Southport BID led conversion of Lord Street into:- 'a boulevard of light' with 300,000 lights installed by local firm IllumiDex UK Ltd. Money from the Town Deal acceleration fund also supported the transformation of Southport Market into a new food, drink and events venue that is due to open next week.

The further ₤37.5milion Town Deal funding announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in the March Budget will ensure the creation of a new Marine Lake Events Centre, a light show on Marine Lake and new business incubator and co-working space in Crown Buildings. Tony Brown said:- "Stuart Barnes from Sefton Council briefed me on all the details happening with 'the new Southport'. That was one of the reasons we have decided to open here, but only one of the reasons. Because we have the history here in Southport, we know what worked before and what didn't work, and what shoppers here want. I believe that everyone in the industry agrees that the days of operating over 100 stores successfully have gone. Department stores are very tough businesses to run. We operate Beales stores in Poole and Peterborough at the moment and Southport will be our 3rd. We are looking at opening a couple more stores in the UK later this year."

Southport Business Improvement District (Southport BID) CEO Rachel Fitzgerald is encouraging people to support Beales when it opens this August. She said:- "There are many people who have confidence in Southport, both landlords and business owners. The reopening of Beales demonstrates the investment they are prepared to put into our Town. It is our responsibility, local people, to continuously invest in our Town so we all can enjoy the benefits of a thriving Southport. The success and prosperity of our Town lies in our hands."

Arcade Manager, Yvonne Burns said:- "We are delighted to welcome Beales back into the Wayfarers family. To have the store open again will bring a buzz to Lord Street and higher footfall into our iconic arcade. We have interest from other businesses looking to trade in the arcade and look forward to a busy time as Wayfarers gears up for the autumn and festive seasons."

Beales is now owned by New Start 2020 and headed up by Tony Brown, Chief Executive of the former Beales who commented:- "Southport is a very special Town and has always been loyal to the Beales brand. We are very much looking forward to welcoming our loyal customers back into the newly refurbished store from August."


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