Friday, 27 November 2015

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Edinburgh Woollen Mill boss still keen on Hoopers deal

Edinburgh Woollen Mill boss Philip Day says he still wants to take over Carlisle’s Hoopers department store, which is set to close next month.

Philip Day photo
Philip Day

Mr Day, who lives at Edmond Castle, Hayton, was in talks to buy the building last summer.

Those negotiations broke down but the deal could be back on following Hoopers’ announcement this week that the store will close for good, probably on March 9.

Steve Simpson, group commercial director at Edinburgh Woollen Mill, told The Cumberland News: “We would still very much like to buy the building. The door is still open.”

The three-storey premises occupy a prime position in Castle Street opposite Carlisle Cathedral. Edinburgh Woollen Mill would reinvent it as a destination shopping centre with a high-quality restaurant.

It is understood that the talks with Hoopers stalled over the access arrangements at the rear of the store, through Carlyle’s Court.

The access agreement expires in 2014 and has still to be renewed. The building also requires structural work including the removal of asbestos ceilings, and upgrades to the lift and the air-conditioning and heating systems.

Hoopers has already closed once. It shut last August only to re-open as a discount designer outlet in October.

News of the permanent closure was broken to the 23 remaining staff on Monday. They are likely to be made redundant.

Marketing co-ordinator Tanya Kavanagh-Lewis said: “The store is just not viable for us. Hoopers have tried desperately to sell the site but unfortunately it fell through.

“We have traded it as an outlet store but it’s not financially viable. It’s a sign of the times. Everyone has done everything they could to make it a success – it is a beautiful location.”

The 42,000sq ft building has been for sale since the autumn with a £2m price tag.

Agent Storeys Edward Symmons says there has been interest from a “variety of people” including occupiers, investors and developers, not necessarily for retail use. It now says it will consider subdividing the building and renting all or part of it as an alternative to a sale.

Hoopers is an established operator of upmarket department stores with branches in Harrogate, Torquay, Wilmslow and Tunbridge Wells.

It has been in Carlisle since 2006 when it bought out the 96-year-old family concern Bulloughs.

The city council is opening talks with Hoopers to ensure the empty building does not become an eyesore.

Council leader Joe Hendry said of the latest development: “I’m greatly happy to hear this news – Philip Day’s proposals and ideas for the development of Hoopers are really very exciting.

“Not only would it be a boost for the whole city but especially for the whole retail service in the city.

“If Hoopers comes alive again it is great news for everybody.”

He said that Mr Day’s proposals, as he has understood them, included opening up the front of the building on Castle Street and forming some sort of conservatory, housing a restaurant.

“That would be fantastic for Castle Street and the whole cultural and heritage quarter,” Mr Hendry added.

Hoopers is the latest in a series of Carlisle stores to close in recent months. Casualties have included Comet, Jessops, Toys ‘R’ Us, Famous Names and the Botchergate branch of Greggs.


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