Shoe Express to pull out of town

ANOTHER high street name has announcedit is pulling out ofGreat Yarmouth - complicating a retail picture which fluctuates from rosy to unpromising.

ANOTHER high street name has announced

it is pulling out of

Great Yarmouth - complicating a retail picture which fluctuates from rosy to unpromising.

Budget shoe retailer Shoe Express slashed prices at its King Street store on the corner of the Victoria Arcade and slapped “Closing Down” signs on its windows.

While shoppers were snapping up the bargains, some analysts were proclaiming the end of the high street, while others were saying talk of its demise was “cobblers” - adding to the confusion.

The sudden closure comes as the footwear sector hit crisis point this week with Dolcis in administration,

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and Shoe Express parent company Stead and Simpson up for sale.

Nationally, Shoe Express, which has 80 stores, some of which have been rebranded as Pose, is said to have been caught in a mid-market squeeze with fashion chains like New Look and Primark strutting their stuff in more attractive, trendy styles.

Shocked staff in Yarmouth reportedly heard the news via the Norwich store which also faces closure. The store shuts for good on March 24. All eight staff face unemployment.

Shoe Express's exit follows that of Mothercare after more than 30 years in the town. The baby clothes and equipment retailer in Market Gates closes today.

Management at Market Gates have not yet revealed who is taking over the unit, but say the new occupant will be a known name with wide appeal.

Shoe Express's Leicester-based head office declined to comment.

Eighteen months ago, worries about extra competition from B&Q's “right-sized” superstore was the talk of Great Yarmouth.

The DIY giant had apparently not traded to expectation at Tamesfield Way and wanted to shut down part of its trade unit and subdivide it into four units, keeping one for itself.

A fierce battle raged about the effect on jobs and the town centre, which was struggling to match the clean, car-friendly appeal of retail parks. Finally, in March last year, it was given the permission, albeit with restrictions, it so desperately wanted; since then nothing has happened.

Head of planning at Great Yarmouth Borough Council Peter Warner said the firm had named clients waiting to take the units but B&Q had not signed a legal agreement to seal the approval.

“We have had no contact with B&Q or their agents since September. As far as we are aware the planning permission has not been granted because the legal agreement has not been signed. We have the notice on draft but it has not been issued.”

The Mercury was awaiting B&Q's comments at the time of going to press.