NUNEATON town centre has been dealt a massive blow as a major retailer is to close its doors for good.
Within a year the Heart of England Co-operative Society’s department store will be no more in the town.
The business, which has links to the area dating back some 130 years, is to cease trading all of its non-food divisions.
As well as closing the department store in Queens Road which sells everything from washing machines to children’s toys, the Co-op will also shut all of its non-food stores in Bedworth, Atherstone and Hinckley as well as in Rugby and Leamington Spa.
The closure plans will not affect the firm’s food and funeral divisions and as it stands, Co-op Travel in New Century Way Nuneaton will remain open, although branches in Bedworth and Leamington will shut.
The News was made aware of the shocking decision from a tip-off from a concerned member of the public, with a spokesperson quickly confirming that it was true.
It will come as a hammer blow to loyal customers, society members and fellow businesses alike, with a question mark now hanging over a huge section of a town which already boasts scores of empty shops. In a statement from the Heart of England Co-operative Society, it said the decision was made with a ‘heavy heart’.
It states: “In August of this year the Heart of England Co-operative Society announced that it had agreed terms and exchanged conditional contracts with EDG Property for the sale of its Coventry department store. The store will close on October 24.
“The development follows the society’s decision to market the property and staff were advised in January that property consultants Bruton Knowles had been instructed to carry out a market evaluation of the Corporation Street site.
“As part of this process, the Heart of England Co-operative Society board took the opportunity to review the future of our non-food operation as a whole. As a result of this review, the board has now taken the decision that, over the coming year, the non-food division will cease to trade.
“This will mean the closure, on a phased basis, of our non-food stores in Nuneaton, Bedworth, Atherstone, Hinckley, Rugby and Leamington Spa.
“It is a decision which has by no means been taken lightly, however the retail environment has become increasingly challenging and this, coupled with the growth in online shopping, has meant that our non-food division is no longer viable as a business. Its closure will enable us to invest in the profitable areas of the business, namely food and funerals, to ensure that the society has a sustainable future and continues to service the needs of the local community as we have over the past 180 years.”
Explaining about the travel side of the business, the spokesperson added: “Following a recent review of its business, the Heart of England Co-operative Society’s board of directors has taken the decision to close its travel businesses in Bedworth and Leamington Spa on September 30.
“No further bookings are being taken. All existing bookings will be taken over by holiday provider Freedom from October 1.
“It is a decision which has not been taken lightly. However the retail environment has become increasingly challenging and it is vital that we take steps to safeguard the society’s position to ensure the business continues to be sustainable.
“In the meantime our priority will be our employees and a period of consultation has now commenced.”
Back in June of this year the company announced its 19th year of consecutive trading profit with gross sales reaching £94.6m in 2014, profits equating to 4.5 per cent of turnover and that it was investing £3.6m in capital projects. It also revealed that membership grew by three per cent in 2014 – with the total standing at 255,342 – an increase of 7,658.
However the report also stated the non-food division was the ‘most challenging’ area of the business with increasing competition from internet and multi-nationals having an impact.
STORY Nuneaton News